Tributes are being paid to a “highly respected” referee who died after being hit by a soccer ball while officiating a match. The Boston and District Saturday Football League said Michael Grant was officiating a youth game at Carre’s Grammar School in Sleaford, Lincolnshire last Wednesday when he was hit by a “stray ball”. The married grandfather-of-one, from Ruskington, suffered a brain haemorrhage and tragically died in hospital on Monday.

A minute’s silence will be held in his memory before the league and cup matches next Saturday.

The Lincolnshire Football Association said in a statement posted on Twitter that Mr Grant was “seriously injured in a freak accident” while refereeing a school game on October 19.

He was described as a “brilliant man” who regularly refereed two or three games a week, “always with a smile on his face”.

The association said East Midlands football had “lost a highly respected referee in the process of doing what he loved”.

A statement posted on Twitter said: “Our thoughts at this sad time are with the family and friends of Michael (Mick) Grant, from Ruskington, who died peacefully in hospital yesterday.

“Mick was refereeing a school game last Wednesday when he suffered a serious head injury in a freak accident. A good man, he regularly refereed two or three games a week, always with a smile on his face.

“Leicestershire football has lost a highly respected referee in the process of doing what he loved. “The whole football family sends their deepest condolences to his wife, daughter, grandson and his many friends.”

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North Reading FA’s refereeing department responded to the Lincolnshire Football Association’s statement, tweeting: “Our condolences to Michael’s family, friends and all of you at Lincolnshire FA. RIP Michael.”

The Boston and District Saturday Soccer League called Mr. Grant a “long-standing and well-respected” referee.

Tributes poured in from a number of local football clubs he had been involved with over the years, including Sleaford Town Junior, Sleaford United, Spaulding United and Grimsby Corinthians.

Sleaford United Youth FC commented: “We had Mick as a referee last Sunday. Mick was a good person to talk to before the game and had good advice as well as interesting stories.

“The man was clearly committed to football and sadly died in a freak accident refereeing the sport he clearly loved.”