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Stuart’s a chairman that knows his way round a football field

Stuart Highfield, in his referee kit.
Stuart Highfield, in his referee kit.

Football club chairmen always like to think they talk a good game, but not many can speak as authentically as Stuart Highfield.

The new Frickley Athletic chairman certainly knows what he is on about when it comes to the game as he has been a referee for 50 years since starting out as a 17-year-old in local leagues round Doncaster.

Stuart has even officiated at Frickley’s Westfield Lane ground many times and his enjoyment of matches at the venue helped him in deciding to take up the reins at the Evo-Stik First Division South club.

He told the Express: “I’ve been going to the club for many, many years, going back to when I used to referee games there.

“I used to referee in the old Gola League and did matches at Frickley. I always found it a very friendly club.

“I then became an assessor in the Northern Premier League and used to assess games on a regular basis at Frickley when they always made me welcome.

“So it’s been somewhere I’ve enjoyed going to over the years and it’s great to be here now as the chairman.”

Stuart, who lives in Askern, is still keeping his hand in today and only last weekend was officiating in a Sunday League game at Upton.

He said: “I do my refereeing for fun these days and still get out on a Sunday morning.

“I carried on all through the summer and refereed a team called Common Road, who are up at South Kirkby. I did all their pre-season friendlies and it kept me going at two games a week.

“When you get a little bit older you need to keep your legs going!

“I’m not as fit as I used to be, but I’ve got my experience.”

In his prime Stuart refereed matches in the Northern Premier League and the Yorkshire League and was a linesman at Conference level while he took charge in a number of schoolboy internationals as well as schools finals.

He added: “I refereed to a high level, I was on the English Schools panel and did 26 internationals for them and actually got the chance to referee at Wembley.

“But most of my refereeing has been done non-league.

“It can be hard and it’s harder these days, but if you’ve got a decision wrong you’ve just got to hold your hand up and say sorry. Players usually accept it.”