FIT inducts three new life members Bill Ker, Ian Matthew, and Darrin Sykes

Jan. 27, 2022 @ 0:00 UTC

Long-time Secretary-General of FIT Bill Ker (pictured), Referees Commission Chair - Ian Matthew and highly-decorated referee and administrator Darrin Syke are FIT's latest Life Members.

The Federation of International Touch (FIT) has inducted three new Life Members of the sport’s peak body— former Secretary-General Bill Ker, long-time Referees Commission Chair - Ian Matthew and well-respected referee and administrator Darrin Sykes

The celebrated trio joins Cary Thompson as life members of FIT. 

Bill Ker’s induction as a Life Member comes after a stellar contribution to the sport of Touch, starting as Vice President of Gold Coast Touch in 1976.

Bill was also a keen player and attended the first North Queensland Championships. His administrative career started with his appointment as Executive Officer of Queensland Touch from 1984 to 1994 and the CEO of the then Australian Touch Association from 1994 to 2005. During his stint at the helm of Australian Touch, Bill oversaw the National Touch League concept launch. For his efforts, Bill was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000.

Bill’s international contributions have been extensive, including serving on the World Cup events committee from 1995 to 2007. Bill first joined the FIT Board in 1989 and has been its Secretary General since 2013. 

Also, a Level 5 referee, Bill is a Life Member of Touch Football Australia (TFA), Queensland Touch and Gold Coast Touch. In his honour, the “Bill Ker” medal is for staff in the TFA network who have reached 12 or more years of service to the sport.

Peter Topp, Director of FIT, said Touch owes a debt of gratitude to Bill Ker. “I have served with Bill on the FIT Board for many years, and his dedication to the cause has been unrelenting whether it’s in the boardroom, preparing for a World Cup or onboarding new members.

“It’s fitting that FIT is now recognising the work of Bill, Ian and Darrin for their enthusiasm and contributions to the expansion of the game.”

According to Peter Topp, Kiwi Darrin Sykes has left an indelible mark on Touch as an administrator and referee. He was a nationally ranked referee from 1991 to 1995. Darrin officiated at the 1991 World Cup in Auckland, refereeing the 35 Men World Cup final.

Since hanging up the whistle, Darrin has been a member of the FIT Referee Panel since 1999 and has been responsible for the appointment, assessment, and training of referees operating on the international stage. Peter Topp said, “Darrin has provided mentoring, coaching, assessment and appointment support for on-field referees and referee coaches at international events such as World Cups and Test matches.”

In November 2004, Darrin joined the Touch NZ Referees Advisory Panel, and he was appointed Chair of the Touch NZ Referees Advisory Panel in 2007, a position he still holds. He has held the post of Touch NZ’s National Director of Referees since 2011. 

In recognition of his outstanding efforts, Darrin received a Touch NZ National Service Award in 1998 for his work in referee development and governance. In 2008, Touch NZ honoured Darrin with a Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding service to the game. His service also earned him a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Like Darrin and Bill, Ian (Matto) Matthew has dedicated a large slice of his life to the six-a-side code. 

Ian has been FIT’s Director of Referees since 1999. He has been a longstanding New South Wales Touch Association (NSWTA) Board member and Technical Director of TFA’s National Referees panel since 1993. His list of achievements is seemingly never-ending. Like Bill Ker, Matto even has an award named after him. The NSWTA Referee of the Year Award has been the Ian Matthew Medal since 2006. 

Matto became a graded NSWTA referee in 1985 and quickly rose through the ranks. He officiated at two Touch World Cups as an active referee (Gold Coast 1988 and Auckland 1991) and has attended nearly all the World Cups since as either a Referees Panel member or as Director of Referees. 

Peter Topp said, “Ian Matthew has honed his skills in Australia, and has utilised that information and experience to great effect worldwide. So, his focus and influence are truly global, making him deserving of this recognition.”

Over recent times with overseas travel severely restricted, Matto has still been able to foster referee development by shifting its training online. The FIT Referees Panel delivered courses via ZOOM to countries such as Fiji, Samoa, Malaysia, Chilli, USA and NZ. “Due to the use of virtual technology, courses were revamped to serve online delivery, all of which Matto did in his own time.

Tellingly, Matto’s approach to referee and referee coach development has increased the number of females engaging in these roles across all the member nations.