VETERAN Mexborough match official Brian Hardeman described being honoured by the County Referees Association as the ‘proudest moment of his career.’
The 76-year-old received the Jack Cook Memorial Award at the association’s annual dinner at Mexborough’s Pastures Lodge last week, recognising decades of dedication, devotion and integrity as a referee in South Yorkshire.
Hardeman said: “I’m really honoured by this, it was a wonderful night.
“I didn’t know they had chosen me, I just knew I was nominated so it was a real surprise.
“I’d put this award on a par with being chosen to referee the County FA Junior Cup final out of hundreds of officials.
“I’ve never been more proud because this is recognition for what I’ve given over the years.
“You expect something like this to go to Howard Webb with what he’s achieved over the last year but I was told this is about what you have done for other people.”
Hardeman – who only recently retired from refereeing – first picked up the whistle more than 35 years ago, inspired by the criticism he gave out to others carrying out the role.
He said: “My son was playing for Mexborough Grammar School when they won the English Schools Trophy.
“I used to get him in trouble because I’d have a go at the teachers who were refereeing that didn’t know what they were doing.
“I just thought, if I’m having a go, I ought to be able to back it up. “So I signed up for a course and it started there.”
Hardeman attended a course run out of a pub in Rotherham by Rob McRobbie and within three years he qualified as a Class One official.
He refereed in the then-Saturday Mexborough League before moving to the Doncaster Senior and County Senior leagues.
Hardeman is the only man to referee two Montagu Cup finals and averaged 40 games per season for 33 years, issuing 740 cautions and 138 red cards.
Part of the reason behind him receiving his award is due to the work Hardeman has done in bringing through the next generation of referees, something he continues to do.
A qualified national referee instructor, Hardeman mentors those going through the practical element of the training process.
He is currently acting as a mentor to a group who are working their way through the recent training programmes put on by the Mexborough and District Referees Association.
Hardeman said: “I’ve been impressed by the lads we’ve got coming through and they should do well.
“We really need them because there’s not enough coming through to replace those retiring.
“It’s a hard job to take up because behaviour now is worse than it has ever been.
“I think the FA need to start from the very top because young players watching the likes of Rooney carrying off like he did recently are just going copy that.”
Hardeman admits he misses donning the black shirt every weekend, something made worse by having to give up his other role as a cricket umpire due to his need for a knee replacement.
He said: “I do miss it an awful lot when I’m stood on the sidelines at football and it’ll be hard this summer not being an umpire.
“I’m still as fit as you’d like above my legs but I can hardly get into my car when I’ve been out on the field.
“But I’m still as involved as I can be.”