Rugby in mourning after shock death of 26-year-old referee
The Rugby Football League has announced the death of referee Chris Leatherbarrow.
The 26-year-old from St Helens had progressed through the ranks to become a Super League official. No details have been given about the cause of death.
In a short statement, RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: "We are all truly shocked and saddened by the news of Chris Leatherbarrow's untimely death.
"This is a dreadful tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with Chris' family, friends and colleagues at this terrible time."
Fellow referee Richard Silverwood led the tributes on Twitter:
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Truly gutted. I'll never forget the week we had on our Pre Season camp to Lanzarote. Gone too soon. RIP Chris x pic.twitter.com/0B3KsUJ8Kd— Richard Silverwood (@SilversRef) November 2, 2015
Leatherbarrow, who leaves behind a young daughter, was also hailed by another referee, Robert Hicks, who wrote:
Gone too early my friend. Thinking of friends, family & especially ur princess Daisy. RIP Chris Leatherbarrow ur fun and smile will b missed— Rob Hicks (@Rob_hicks81) November 2, 2015
Current and former players also paid tribute to Leatherbarrow:
Very sad news this morning that RL ref Chris Leatherbarrow as sadly passed away. Thoughts go out his family and friends, RIP Chris— Lee Smith (@Smith2lee) November 2, 2015
My deepest sympathies are with the family of Chris leatherbarrow Such awful news RIP Chris— Kallum Watkins (@KallumWatkins) November 2, 2015
Shocking news about chris leatherbarrow he was great ref and one that you could talk n have a laugh with! Thinking of him and family RIP— Jamie Ellis (@Ellis_2025) November 2, 2015
Leatherbarrow hailed from the rugby league hotbed of St Helens in northwest England, and had a young daughter, Daisy, with his partner Nicola. No details about a cause of death have been released.
Leatherbarrow was named Championship Referee of the Year in 2013 for his displays in British rugby league's second tier.