UK’s Oldest Referee, 89, Has No Plans To Retire From The Game

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Frank Foster has presided over more than 5,000 games

Frank Foster, 89, with his great-grandson Joshua Saleh, 7, during their football game at Goodwin Sports Centre in Sheffield. (Photo by Anita Maric via SWNS)

Britain’s oldest referee has no plans to blow the final whistle on his hobby – at the grand age of 89.

Sprightly Frank Foster has taken charge of more than 5,000 games in a career spanning more than 40 years. He started refereeing in November 1980 and still officiates men’s, women’s and children’s footie games three times a week for the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA.

And he expects to carry on dishing out red and yellow cards into his 90s as he “just loves being a referee” Great-grandad-of-three Frank said: “I just love it. Whether it’s girl’s football, women’s, boy’s or men’s football – I’m the same.

“I just love football but you’ve got to play it to the rules so no diving. I like seeing that people play to the rules and that there’s no dissent. I don’t accept any trouble, even from spectators.

“I make them understand the word of respect. When I talk to the players before the match starts, I tell them to play to the whistle and all that jazz.

“I tell them to not get into any altercations and tell them that I’ll sort it all out because if you retaliate, then it’s even worse.”

Frank Foster, 89, refereeing under 7’s during their soccer game at Goodwin Sports Centre in Sheffield. PHOTO BY ANITA MARICVIA/SWNS

Frank played football with Bamford FC but had to stop in the early 1950s when he injured his knee. He then decided to take up coaching and refereeing, and passed his referee exam in 1980, scoring 98%.

In his 40-year career, he’s refereed for thousands of players over the years, including England player Tony Currie who he said ‘wanted the ball at his feet.’

Frank, of Sheffield, said: “I referred a team some years ago, and they played a match where Tony Currie was playing.

“I didn’t have to give him a red card or anything. But if the ball was in front of him then he wouldn’t run for it, he just wanted the ball at his feet from what I can remember.

“I can’t remember their names now but I once refereed Chesterfield’s center forward and Barnsley’s goalkeeper some years ago.”

The Sheffield United fan is believed to be the oldest referee in the UK and he said that people sometimes comment on his age after matches. Frank said: “There have been times when I’m leaving the field and someone will come up to me and ask how old I am.

“I ask them how old they think I am, they might say 67 but I’ll always say spot on. I don’t even think about my age and I’ll be a referee until I can’t keep up with them.

“I might eventually need a moped at half time but I’ll always keep doing it.”

He has also reflected on some of his memories of coaching and refereeing football from the last 40 years, including when he’s had to tell spectators to leave. Frank said: “One time I was refereeing at a men’s game and every time I made a decision on something, one of the players said ‘oh my God.’

“I thought I would let that go a little bit. But after the second time he said it, I went up to him and said ‘it’s nice to know that there are people who are religious who play football.”

“He didn’t say it anymore, it’s just all about how you approach things.”

Frank Foster can be seen standing with his former soccer teammates before he became a referee. The 89-year-old refuses to quit the game. PHOTO BY ANITA MARICVIA/SWNS

He added: “I don’t take anything from spectators either, I tell them to either be quiet or I’ll just send them away. If I do have to send them away, then I find out which team they are there supporting and call the manager of that team over to send that chap away.

“Then if he doesn’t go away, I’ll cancel the game. One time I sent a chap away and he asked how far I wanted him to walk.

“I told him that if he sees a number five bus, then he should get on it.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker.