Fred Lindop MBE - Sheffield Rugby League Pioneer

George Frederick Lindop MBE (Fred), founding coach of Sheffield University Rugby League Club and one of the most respected referees in the professional game died recently, aged 84.

Fred accepting an award
Photo courtesy of Ellis Rugby

Wakefield-based Fred founded the club in answer to the call of a group of students who were intent on establishing the sport at the University of Sheffield. Although he had no prior connections with Sheffield, Fred never hesitated and quickly established the new club as a team to be reckoned with in the tough sport of rugby league.

In the absence of regular varsity fixtures, Fred entered the team in the Wakefield & District Open Age League, competing against long-established clubs in one of the sport’s heartlands. Not only did they compete, they eventually won the league, a source of much pride to Fred.

He inspired and commanded respect and was a real achiever in all aspects of his sporting life. Fred was renowned for the passion, direct speaking and sense of humour he brought to the game.

He turned a ramshackle bunch from all over the country into league champions”

Nick Quinn

Scrum Half in the late 1970s

Fred combined his day job as a salesman with a glittering career in the world of professional rugby league. As well as officiating weekly in the top tier of the domestic game, he took charge of the showpiece Challenge Cup Final at Wembley five times. On the international front, refereeing the 1970 World Cup Final was the stand-out memory of his twenty-two international matches.  

Unsurprisingly, such a career was recognised with an MBE for services to sport in 1989 and induction into the Rugby League’s Roll of Honour in 2009.

Fred with his rugby teammates
Fred (left corner holding the rugby ball) with his coaching team

Fred’s last involvement in the University Rugby League Club was as a guest of honour at the SURLFC 50th anniversary celebrations in 2019. As ever, he was in good voice and truly humbled by the number of his proteges who turned out to honour the man who started it all.

Everyone who played under Fred acknowledges the debt they owe him. German graduate and former hooker Mick Lyons remembers him as “very knowledgeable, likeable and witty.” 

A great coach, dear friend and superb servant to both the Sheffield University club and the wider world of rugby league.”

Bernie Hunter

Former University Rugby League Club Captain 

Despite their great sadness when learning of his passing, many of Fred’s former players were delighted to reminisce about their playing days. Professor of Biochemistry David Hornby summed up perfectly that “The legacy of someone like Fred in death is that they refresh old friendships”

The University would like to express our thanks to Bernie Hunter and Fred's friends for the information and photographs provided.