VETERAN Keith Dibb, who is about to start his 70th season as ‘a man in a white coat', has won the Dales Council League’s top umpiring trophy for the third time.

He has been awarded the John Morgan-Yorkshire Evening Post umpires’ award for the 2021 season, having previously collected it in 2000 and 2003.

Dibb, who is 86 and stands at an impressive 6ft 4in, said of his latest honour: “I feel very surprised and I feel very privileged.”

Dibb started umpiring while still a player at Hawksworth Cricket Club.

He said: “I was a player-umpire in 1952. We used to play friendlies for quite a while before we were admitted to the Dales Council League (in 1995).

“You used to have to umpire your own matches when they were friendlies and I didn’t open the batting as I was the opening bowler, so I batted at 10 or 11 and went out at the start of our innings and umpired, wearing a white coat of course.

“I was also club secretary and treasurer and groundsman.

“I stopped playing for Hawksworth when I was 47 – I used to be an opening seam bowler – and they ‘carried’ me in the slips for two seasons, but we were losing matches because people were going into the league, so I went along to Pudsey St Lawrence to ask if we could apply to go into the Dales Council.

“And if they accepted us, I was going to become their umpire, and this year will be my 27th season as an umpire in the Dales Council.

“When I started there was a waiting list for umpires in the Dales Council – there were about 55 of us standing – so every Saturday you would have a colleague with you, some of whom who didn’t get a game every week due to the high numbers.

“But the number of umpires has gone down, and now we have players standing as square-leg umpires, many of whom are not interested in what is going on, so as far as I am concerned teams have let us down by not supporting us as umpires.

“About nine years ago I started to have to umpire on my own due to that lack of numbers, but as I am getting older, I said that I would not umpire on my own as it is too demanding mentally and physically to stand for six hours alone.”

Keith, who also umpires at the iconic Arthington Festival, which runs into October, lost his wife Margaret due to coronavirus in January 2021.

He said: “She made cricket teas for Hawksworth Cricket Club for 25 years – she liked cricket, and that was a good stint.

“But when you are sat in a flat on your own and you have been married for 59 years you think that you are going to go mental over the course of a winter.

“But luckily I have the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation Zoom meetings every Wednesday, and I have the Northern Cricket Society, so I go to Headingley for that when we are not on Zoom.

“Last season umpiring was tiring but you need company, and cricket has provided that.

“Some say that cricket is like watching paint dry but as an umpire you have the best seat in the house behind the stumps and you try to be fair with everybody, and if you are not sure then you don’t give people out.

“But when the ECB ACO told me three years ago that I should give three lbws a week, I laughed at them – and then gave three lbws the following week, but only because I felt that they were out.”