Referees are the unsung heroes of the footballing universe and get a bad wrap all too often. Whilst a striker missing a one-on-one can regularly go unnoticed, an official making an error is the talk of the town for weeks. Honestly though, who grows up dreaming of becoming a referee? Narcissists, probably. Whose children are asking for the latest referees kits for Christmas? Step aside Neymar and Rashford, it’s all about Mike Dean for me. Someone has to do it though.  

My unjustified hatred for referees aside, it has been refreshing and encouraging to see an increase of female officials recently. Since 2016, the number of women in refereeing roles in English football has gone up by 72%. On further inspection, we see that this is still just a fraction of the estimated 50,000 active referees across the federation. Despite a promising increase in numbers, a further rise of female involvement on our pitches is still needed. It would do nothing but enhance the game that we love.  At the beginning of the month, the sport kicked on once more. 

Stephanie Frappart recently became the first woman to referee a UEFA Champions League game, as she officiated a group stage clash between Juventus and Ukranian outfit Dynamo Kyiv. The game itself was not of great importance, as the Italian giants strolled to a 3-0 victory, however it marked another important landmark in sports and women’s history. 

Frappart is a well-known name in the officiating world. She oversaw the 2019 Women’s World Cup final in which the United States put the Netherlands to the sword with a 2-0 triumph. Later that year, she called the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea.

Joanna Stimpson, Women’s Professional Game Refereeing Manager, stated: “To have someone like Stephanie, who is really breaking down barriers at the top end of the game, is huge for the future of female refereeing, not just in the UK but all around the world.” She also confirmed that gender is not a hinderance in the world of refereeing, and that Frappart has earned her status not because of the sex she was born, but because she is truly one of the best at what she does. 

It is so discouraging to see, that when you type ‘Female referees’ into YouTube my suggested bar is flooded with ‘Top ten most beautiful women in football’ types of videos. Not only is this sexist and objectifying of women referees, but this type of content is totally ignorant and overshadowing of the hard work and dedication that these women put in. I mean they’ve sacrificed a lot to be heckled by Keith ‘Pie-in-hand’ from Millwall on a Saturday afternoon.

I hate to be a whistle-blower, but Stephanie Frappart is a truly inspirational woman, who has rightfully earned her place at the elite level of the refereeing world. I hope that her representation in mainstream football opens doors for women currently in the industry, and inspires those that got their first referee kits for Christmas to step out and show some cards.