I was asked recently about the origins of the “From the Middle” column and the RRA magazine “The Reading Referee” so here is a potted history of the column and the magazine which to some extent coincide.
The magazine was started in 1958, edited by Bert Newman, Peter Jefferies and Len Forbes . At the beginning of 1962, Bert Newman resigned from the editorial team after his appointment as secretary of the Reading Institute League. I took over with Peter Jefferies as assistant editor. The following season we were approached by the Reading Chronicle to write a weekly ‘Referees Viewpoint’. As I had just been elected as Press Secretary I was asked to undertake this task. I continued to write that column, renamed ‘Dick Sawdon Smith writes From the Middle’, for the next 21 years. I resigned as Press Secretary, Magazine Editor and all my other positions within Reading RA in 1983. Brian Palmer took over as magazine editor and Press Secretary, positions he held until 2000. Towards the end of that time (I am not sure of the date) The Reading (Evening) Post approached the Society for a weekly referees column. Brian, along with John Moore who had become assistant editor of the magazine, wrote these articles. Brian gave this up, as he thought he had said all he wanted to say, before giving up the editorship of the magazine. I thought it a pity to lose this ‘voice’ so I suggested to the Post that I take over writing the weekly columns in 2000 and have continued ever since. The articles are one referee’s view on the game with the intention of getting readers to have a more balanced view of the laws of the game and refereeing. The Reading Post have been kind enough to say that it is one of their most popular features and certainly I get phone calls, e-mails and drawn into conversations about it fairly regularly.
No one came forward to edit the magazine in 2000 and I produced a newsletter for that season. John Coombes took over editing the magazine in 2001 and continued for 3 years. At that time no one came forward and I took over again on a temporary and modest scale as I thought we owed some form of communication to those members who paid their money but couldn’t attend meetings. In an attempt to save money on postage, two years ago members were asked if they were prepared to accept an e-mail version, to which apparently some 60% agreed.