Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris plans to referee more football matches in Northern Ireland

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In an interview this week with BBC Sport, the 54-year-old said his 41 years as a football referee had kept him sane.

The Secretary of State officiated an Under-11 game at Hillsborough on Saturday and said he was considering taking charge of more matches with the Irish FA.

Mr Heaton-Harris, explaining how he became a qualified FA referee, said: “My dad’s best friend was a Fifa referee in England, a guy called Ray Lewis.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, recently officiated in his first football game in Northern Ireland – a youth match at the Downshire YM Football Club in Hillsborough

“He came to see me play when I was 10 or 11 in a little league like this, realized I was absolutely rubbish so he sent me the little black book with the game sheets .

“I took a course and that’s it. I’ve been going there ever since. Football has done wonders for me throughout my life so I would recommend it to anyone.”

“I didn’t realize in my first game that you actually get a match fee,” he told BBC Sport.

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Chris Heaton-Harris MP keeps an eye on the match action at the Downshire YM Football Club in Hillsborough

“This guy walked into the locker room with a small packet of wages in a brown paper envelope containing eight pounds. He gave it to me and I thought I was being bribed.”

He said being a referee kept him sane and helped his political career: “You go to the clubhouse afterwards, you talk and you know a lot more about what’s going on than sometimes you don’t. would get a piece of paper and briefings.

“It really gave me some really good ideas, normally after they stopped insulting you at the bar.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
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