A REFEREE is fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack during a charity football match to raise funds for a pitchside defibrillator.
Mark Sperring, 55, collapsed while officiating the game played in memory of his twin sister Susan, who died last year.
The match, between junior sides, was to fund a pitchside defibrillator for footballers who suffer heart failure while playing.
Players rushed to perform CPR on Mark, who was determined to take part — despite warnings about hot weather as the game was played at noon on Sunday.
Mark’s heart stopped twice during the episode and he underwent triple bypass surgery after being resuscitated.
Relatives who were at the game said his condition was ‘touch and go’ — but Mark is now showing slow signs of recovery.
His mother Diane, 78, thought she had lost her son. She says Mark was ‘very close’ to Susan before she died of stomach cancer.
The grandmother-of-13 said: ‘I went to watch the game and Mark had made a lot of effort to referee the game. They were twins and always very close.
‘During the game someone said, “Mark’s down”. I’ll never forget seeing my son on the floor like that. It was horrible. Mark’s wife was in bits.
‘The doctor’s said it was touch and go whether he would make it, but he is very strong and we are hoping he’ll make a full recovery.’
Mark, of Worle, Somerset, helped organise the match at the Baytree Recreation Ground in nearby Weston-super-Mare.
Mark Neal, Weston Crusaders chairman, launched the defibrillator campaign because he worried about the rising number of footballers dying from heart conditions while playing.
It has so far raised around £150. Mr Neal said: ‘We hope to also raise funds to purchase the AED, and a sign which would be sited on the clubhouse ensuring all can clearly see we have access to a defibrillator for use on anyone requiring emergency intervention while awaiting an ambulance.
‘Having such a valuable lifesaving piece of equipment readily available could make the difference between life and death.’
South Western Ambulance Service confirmed paramedics were called just after midday on Sunday, with an air ambulance, an operations officer and two ambulances attending the scene.
The club’s vice-chairman Andy Blackmore said Sunday’s incident was a ‘prime example’ of why a defibrillator was needed at the football ground.
A spokesman said: ‘One patient was taken to Weston General Hospital via air and then transferred to the Bristol Royal Infirmary.’
Mark, an office worker for Muller dairies, has three other siblings — Colin, Alison and Shirley.