"Dad went into hospital and sadly didn’t come out"
Premier League referee Lee Probert is one of the lucky few in his profession to have officiated an FA Cup Final, taking charge of 2014's showdown between Arsenal and Hull. He dedicated that emotional afternoon to his late father, who died from prostate cancer and spurred him on to fulfill his refereeing ambitions. Now he's joined the fight against the disease and will be swinging his clubs in the inaugural South West Prostate Cancer UK Open.
It was one of the more remarkable FA Cup finals in recent times, triggering differing emotions for the fans of both Arsenal and Hull City across two epic hours of action. But for one other key man on that afternoon, the 2014 showpiece meant so much more.
Wiltshire-based referee Lee Probert achieved a life’s ambition by refereeing the showpiece event at the home of football, and dedicated his moment on domestic football’s grandest stage to his late father.
Glancing at the heaven’s above as he emerged from the fabled tunnel, his first thoughts were about his dad Tom who died of prostate cancer six years earlier.
After two breathless hours of action, Arsenal eventually prevailed 3-2 in extra-time, despite falling two goals behind with just eight minutes on Probert’s watch.
Eight years ago, prostate cancer wasn’t on my radar. I knew nothing about it
When he looks back at that day, it’s clear to say it’s still an emotional memory for the referee, who started on the Isle of Wight and is back in black this season after sitting out the whole of 2015/16 through a serious back injury.
“Eight years ago, prostate cancer wasn’t on my radar. I knew nothing about it. Then sadly I lost my dad to it,” he said.
“It was quite a quick thing really. He was diagnosed early and his checks went well, but then things turned. He went into hospital and sadly didn’t come out.”
A member of the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) Select Group, Probert was a popular choice to take charge of the 2014 final, and admitted his dad would have been “chuffed” to see him lead out the two teams that day.
“The FA Cup is the pinnacle of English football, and dedicating the FA Cup final to him was something for me to remember him by,” added Lee. “He was always there to support me throughout my career so I saw the final as payback for all his hard work, taking me here, there and everywhere, encouraging me to never give up.
“My dad always said to me: 'don’t ever look back and wonder what you could have achieved. If you have an ambition, go and give it 100 per cent and you’ll achieve your goals'."
It’s great that the refereeing fraternity are getting involved. I know Phil Dowd wore the badge in a Premier League game. And Andre [Marriner] joined his dad, Lester, on the Men United March
Right now, Probert’s goals include raising awareness of the deadly disease that unashamedly gate-crashed his and his family’s lives eight years ago.
He remains aware of his own risks, due to the hereditary nature of prostate cancer, but has joined the fight to do something about it.
“Prostate cancer is something that is now high on my agenda and I want to raise the awareness of it. One in eight men will get it, and for those affected through their genes like me, it’s something I need to be aware of,” he continued.
“It wasn’t long after the FA Cup final that I found out about the work of Prostate Cancer UK, and the work they are doing now with the badge and the ‘Man of Men’ logo is fantastic.
“Sadly prostate cancer is everywhere, but the awareness is out there too, and lots of people are talking about it. I’m proud to represent the charity and make people aware of the stark facts.
“It’s also great that the refereeing fraternity are getting involved. I know that Phil Dowd wore the badge a few years ago in a Premier League game. And I know Andre [Marriner] joined his dad, Lester, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, on the Jeff Stelling Men United March. As I say, it’s about raising awareness and it’s surprising just how many people have been affected by prostate cancer.”
It’s great to be able to use golf as a vehicle to help us raise the awareness
Away from the beautiful game, Probert is a keen golfer and will be raising money via the inaugural Prostate Cancer UK South West Open event on Thursday 22nd September 2016.
The event takes place at Cumberwell Park, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. Entry is £55 with £5 coming to Prostate Cancer UK.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been injured for the last year so playing golf has been on the backburner,” said Lee. “But we are all very much looking forward to the first South West Prostate Cancer UK Open.
“It’s great to be able to use golf as a vehicle to help us raise the awareness. There are people out there who have lost loved ones to prostate cancer or know people that have had it, or people who are still going through treatments. So it will be great to do our bit with this event.”
To find our more about the Prostate Cancer UK South West Open or enter, check out the event website.