‘A joy to work with’ – Kevin Ricketts, former News sports writer and international rugby referee, loses his battle with cancer

Kevin Ricketts, who covered grassroots sport for The News for many years, has sadly lost his battle with cancer. He was 73.
Kevin Ricketts has died aged 73 following a battle with cancerKevin Ricketts has died aged 73 following a battle with cancer
Kevin Ricketts has died aged 73 following a battle with cancer

Kevin first started working for this newspaper in the 1990s, mainly covering Havant & Waterlooville FC.

He was also the main reporter on other non-league football and rugby union, while he also covered Southern Premier League cricket.

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He retired from his writing career after the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

In a previous work life, Kevin was a history teacher at Priory School.

He had moved to Portsmouth a few years earlier when he was offered a job at Park Community School in Leigh Park.

Born in south Wales, Kevin attended St Julians Grammar School for Boys, in Newport, and the University of Wales, Cardiff.

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He was a top class rugby referee for several years in the 1990s, during which he refereed many of the top clubs in England including Wasps, Bristol, Bath, Harlequins, Gloucester, Leicester and London Welsh.

In 1993, he refereed group games in the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham and was a touch judge for the final.

The following year, he refereed the Wales v New Zealand U21 international at Pontypridd which included several players who went on to be Wales internationals, including British Lion Mark Taylor, Spencer John and Rob Appleyard.

In 1994 Kevin also refereed in an under-21 national tournament in Argentina, and he was a touch judge at an England v Ireland students international including Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Simon Shaw.

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Havant & Waterlooville FC said they were “incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of a friend of the club”.

In a statement, they said Kevin “was a much loved journalist who has spent many years following the Hawks, building relationships with players, staff and supporters alike. His kind personality shone through for all to see.”

Former Hawks secretary Trevor Brock, a close friend of Kevin’s, told The News: “He was a lovely man who loved his sport.

“I’m absolutely devastated by the news, I only saw him last week.

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“Kevin remained a supporter of the club even after giving up his News writing commitments, regularly listening to the club’s games on the radio.”

A Portsmouth RFC statement said Kevin “was a much-respected member of PRFC, a fine ref - he reached the very top of the tree as a 1st Class ref, the equivalent of the Premiership today.”

The club are holding a minute’s silence in his honour ahead of matches this weekend.

Dave King was sports editor of The News when Kevin first started writing for the paper.

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He recalled: “A chance meeting on the touchline at Portsmouth Rugby Club in 1998 when I was sports editor began an amazing journalism journey for one amazing man.

"Kevin was teaching at Park Community School at the time, was interested in writing for The News, and Sports Mail, so he began initially writing rugby reports before being let loose on non league football.

"He will be remembered as an excellent writer, a wonderful man with a warm heart who people liked, and respected. For more than 20 years, he represented the heart and soul of grass roots sport in Portsmouth.”

Another former News sports editor, Mark McMahon, also paid a tribute, saying: “It is with great sadness to learn of the passing of Kevin, who was not only an esteemed work colleague at The News but also someone who was considered a dear friend - not just by me, but by all who worked alongside him.

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“His dedication to covering non-league football, rugby and cricket made him a valuable and trusted member of our sport team for so many years, while his sense of humour, infectious personality and kind demeanour made him a joy to work with - even if it did cost us the odd cake and a cuppa when he came into the office!

“I’m sure I speak for everyone at The News who had the privilege of working and befriending Kevin, that this is an extremely sad occasion.

“He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Kevin is survived by wife Patricia and sons Chris and David.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, February 20 at Christ Church, Portsdown Hill, London Road, PO6 3NB.

The service will start at 11.45am with the wake at Havant RFC from 1pm.