Sheffield great-grandad and world's oldest referee, 90, gets royal welcome at Wembley for services to football

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
“I never expected this, and I don’t do it for this - I do it because I love football.”

Over 80,000 people gathered at Wembley on Friday to watch England play Iceland in a friendly ahead of the Euros, with a very special guest from Sheffield in the Royal Box.

Frank Foster, a great-grandad from the Steel City, is the world’s oldest referee at nearly 91 years old.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Sheffield great-grandad and 'the world's oldest referee' Frank Foster, 91, was invited to the England v Sweden game at Wembley.Sheffield great-grandad and 'the world's oldest referee' Frank Foster, 91, was invited to the England v Sweden game at Wembley.
Sheffield great-grandad and 'the world's oldest referee' Frank Foster, 91, was invited to the England v Sweden game at Wembley. | Keith Foster

With 44 years of coaching and being The Man in Black under his belt, Frank was honoured for his services to football at Wembley, with a king’s reception, dinner with the biggest names in the FA, and the best seats in the stadium to watch the game.

“To be honest, and to be a bit rude, but I was gobsmacked,” said the nonagenarian referee, who was invited to the game in April following a feature in The Star and a televised spot by the BBC.

“I never expected this, and I don’t do it for this - I do it because I love football,” he said.

“If I could start over and do it all over again, I would. I love football and having this experience has been beautiful.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Frank Foster in deep conversation with the CEO of the FA Mark Bullingham and Sue Hough, Chair of the Women's Committee.Frank Foster in deep conversation with the CEO of the FA Mark Bullingham and Sue Hough, Chair of the Women's Committee.
Frank Foster in deep conversation with the CEO of the FA Mark Bullingham and Sue Hough, Chair of the Women's Committee. | Keith Foster

As well as receiving a standing ovation at a dignitaries’ dinner before the game, some of the VIPs Frank met included the chair of the FA Debbie Hewitt, CEO Mark Bullingham and the chair of the Women’s Committee Sue Hough.

Frank said: “It’s been amazing to watch the sport grow. I can remember many times when I first started refereeing, coming home to my wife and saying ‘there were a few girls playing this time,’ when that was still something remarkable, and now I’m meeting with the chair of the Women’s Committee.”

The highlight, of course, was getting to watch the sport he loves from the best seats in the stadium.

Frank Foster with his son Keith Foster at Wembley.Frank Foster with his son Keith Foster at Wembley.
Frank Foster with his son Keith Foster at Wembley. | Keith Foster

Frank said: “It’s a beautiful experience to sit in these plush leather seats, and the view of the match is incredible - a just a 100 per cent view.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Shame about the performance, of course. The lifelong fan and keen-eyed coach of 44 years said: “There seemed to be no urgency. Pass-pass-pass. It must have been an off day for them. Lethargic. They must have had five substitutes but it didn’t do much good.”

Anyone worried this critical eye ever makes an appearance in Frank’s own games can be rest assured it isn’t Frank’s style at all.

He said: “I tell both sides before the match, play to the rules, play to the whistle, and put a smile on your face. And that goes for the spectators, too. If you show respect, you get respect.

“I’ve no plans of stopping.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Frank was joined at Wembley by his son Keith, 57, who is applying for his dad to receive the King’s Award. He said: “For a bloke who’s 90, going on 91 on June 30, he’s from a different era of ‘always giving not receiving’, not really receiving the recognition they deserve.

“A lot of why he commands in football is his humour. He gets respect and he respects people and humours people along so everyone is having a good day. He’s such an affable chap. When you chat to him you feel like you’ve known him for years.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.