The family of a football referee who has died unexpectedly, aged just 43, has paid tribute to a man "whose character and smile filled every room".

Andrew Parker, who grew up in Stevenage and attended The Barclay School, had not been unwell when he passed away in his sleep on November 30.

In a touching tribute to Andrew, Stevenage Football Club held a minute's silence ahead of their match against Scunthorpe on Wednesday last week.

Andrew held a lifelong passion for football and was a keen supporter of Stevenage FC and Tottenham Hotspur.

His sister, Kate, said: "As a young teenager, he used to get friends from Angotts Mead and do football training practice and arrange a football match between us and neighbouring streets. He soon got the nickname 'The General.'"

Andrew took up refereeing at a very young age, qualifying and working his way up the ranks to become the youngest referee ever of the Herts Junior Cup final.

He was later promoted to the national list of Contributory League referees and an assistant on the Conference League.

Andrew met his wife Paula in 2003 and moved to where she lived in Linford, Essex. They married in 2011.

He continued refereeing and also became involved as a trainer for Linford Wanderers' Under 16s, and every year volunteered at the annual Linford Wanderers' youth sports weekend.

Andrew, an IT manager for financial services company iPSL, retired from refereeing when he began working in London.

Speaking for the family, Kate said: "Everyone who knew Andrew knew he had a louder than life personality, but was kind, thoughtful, very friendly, and always had a smile on his face.

"He shared his passion for football with his nephews, Euan and Owen, and enjoyed hearing about the matches the boys had just played.

"Andrew will be dearly missed. His character and smile filled every room."

Addressing her brother directly, she said: "Andrew, we are so proud of you and all you have achieved - a true inspiration. Your legacy will live on through your family and friends."

A spokesman for Boro said: "All at Stevenage Football Club are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of supporter Andrew Parker. Our thoughts are with Andrew's friends and family at this time."