A boxing official who refereed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, has been named Technical Official of the Year at the 2018 Sport NI SportMaker Awards.

Ben McGarrigle, a fire fighter and former boxer, competed for Northern Ireland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Twenty years later, he found himself back in the Commonwealth Games ring, this time as an official.

Ben’s hard work to develop himself as an official has seen him work steadily up the sport’s pathway, achieving the highest officiating qualification possible, the AIBA 3-Star certification, which enables him to officiate at all levels of amateur boxing. He has an extensive record of officiating right across the spectrum, from club shows in his own County Board area of Tyrone and Fermanagh, to National Elite level. Recently he has officiated at several major international competitions, including the American Continental Championships in Honduras in June, the World Men’s Elite Championships in Germany in the summer of 2017 and numerous World Series of Boxing competitions.

As well as his own officiating, Ben also makes time to provide advice and guidance to other up and coming boxing officials – in the last year he tutored two IABA referee and judging courses, providing development opportunities for over 50 new officials. Ben was previously recognised for his work at the 2018 Derry City and Strabane District Council Sports Awards.

Sport NI’s SportMaker Awards recognise the contribution of the local sporting workforce – the coaches, officials, volunteers and projects making a difference. The Technical Official of the Year award recognises an outstanding official who has demonstrated commitment to their sport, their own professional development, and to making a positive impact on others.

Ben received his award from Michael Cooke, Sport NI Coaching and Club Consultant, at the Ulster 9 County Boy/Girl 4567 Championships 2018 in Shantallow Community Centre on Saturday 1st December.

Congratulating Ben on his award, Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown commented:

“SportMakers like Ben play an absolutely vital role in helping people here to enjoy, engage and excel in sport. Our officials, as well as our coaches and volunteers, are the people responsible for creating opportunities for all of us to participate and realise our sporting ambitions. It is wonderful and inspiring to see how Ben has transitioned his passion for boxing from competing himself through to officiating for new generations of boxers.

“His technical skill and commitment to his own development is absolutely clear in his achievements, both in terms of his officiating qualifications and his selection to referee at the highest levels of boxing. I am delighted that, through the SportMaker Awards, Sport NI is providing an opportunity to recognise and celebrate someone like Ben, and wish him continued success in his officiating career.”

Reacting to his win, Ben said:

“I am absolutely delighted and very grateful for the nomination in the first place. However, the award is not just for me, it’s for everyone that has helped me along the way to get to this level, not just in Ireland but right across the World. The last 12 months have been a roller-coaster for me, getting to officiate at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, 20 years after boxing for Northern Ireland in the Games in Kuala Lumpur. This has been a great way to finish off the year and I really am overwhelmed by this award.”

Jolene Donnelly, Workforce Development Officer with the IABA, added:

“Ben is a fantastic example of the alternative pathway that can be taken following life in the ring as a boxer, and he continually inspires members of the boxing community to become involved in the officiating aspect of the sport. He has been an excellent role model for any aspiring referee and judge across Ulster, and always makes the time to provide advice and guidance to anyone either on the pathway or who is considering becoming a boxing official.”