We Only Do Positive

Inspirational Women in the Game

Here you can find some inspirational women involved in different roles in the beautiful game across durham fa!

Hannah Marshall

Hannah Marshall 
Role: Durham FA Youth Council Chair

What is your role with the Durham FA Youth Council?
I am the chairperson for the youth council meaning that I lead and facilitate meetings whilst ensuring our targets are met. I also represent the youth voice on Durham FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group.
Tell us about how you got involved in the Durham FA Youth Council?
I have always been interested in football and started to gain an interest in youth leadership in college, and it was actually my college principle Mark Hughes who sent me the application and encouraged me to get involved.
What are you looking forward to most about being involved in Youth Council?
I am excited to get to know the new members of the team and hear new ideas from a diverse group of people. I am also looking forward to developing my leadership skills further.
Have you been involved in other areas of football prior to the Youth Council? What are they?
Yes, I have always played football but more recently I have become interested in the coaching aspect. I am currently working towards my level 2 qualification.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in this role?
Obviously with Covid restrictions, communication and interaction have been more difficult. We have been trying to make Microsoft Teams calls engaging, interesting and fun as well as being informative. It’s been harder to bond as a team without face to face meetings so we have worked hard on getting to know each other with games, quizzes and team building activities online.
What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in roles within the game of football?
I’d say that the game is inclusive and open to all. Don’t be influenced by stereotypes and try it for yourself. If it’s something you’re interested in and enjoy then get involved. Even if your friends aren’t, you’ll meet like minded people and new friends along the way.  The women’s game is definitely growing and lots more opportunities are becoming available so now is the perfect time to participate!


Kayley Smith 
Role: Player (Sunderland West End Ladies)

Tell us about how you got involved in football?
I grew up with a brother and a boy best friend who was my next-door neighbour who both played football so I used to play with them. I was quite a tomboy so I hung around with the boys at primary school and played football with them but it wasn't until I got to secondary school that I started to play for a girls football team. I was very sporty and I played netball and hockey too, but football was my favourite so I focused on that and I found a local girls team to play for when I was about 12/13.

What do you enjoy about playing football?
I have had different reasons at different stages. Currently (if I ever get to play again) I enjoy the most is having some me time, a time where I can relax, spend time with my friends and do something that I enjoy. I am very competitive, maybe not so much now, but I have always played to win and with the teams that I have played with, this has always been a common theme. 

What are your greatest achievements in football and why?
My memory isn't great so picking one is too hard, but during my time playing football I have won many league titles, tournaments and awards at presentation night. My most recent achievement would be with Sunderland West End where we progressed as far as we ever have in the FA cup and we beat a team away who was 2 leagues higher than ourselves. We all travelled down expecting anything from the game but we fought hard and played outstanding and I was so proud of how everyone played as we really out done our selves. 

What is your best memory in football?
I have so many great memories in football. My first team I was 12/13 years old I think when I first joined and it was great and I gained some very good friends from that team. I remember our first season in the women's league when we were just kids and we were playing against women twice as big as us, but we still managed to do very well.  At secondary school we were the first girls' team and we won the county cup and progressed all the way to the semi finals of the English Schools League Cup. I played for Northumbria University and we won the league and had many great away journeys, but most recently my favourite memory was when we got to play against Newcastle United and I was lucky enough to have my daughter as mascot alongside me

What are your goals in the sport?
My goal is just to keep playing for as long as my body will let me. I still don't feel too old to retire yet, even though I am now playing with girls who are half my age lol. 

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in the game?
My main obstacles have been when coming back after a couple of injuries and coming back after having 2 children. It has definitely been harder to train and play as obviously my children come first and sometimes I don't always have childcare to be able to leave them to play. 

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in football?
Just do it. Best thing ever is being part of a team where you can socialise and play something that you all enjoy. There are so many female football teams out there for all levels to get involved with.

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in admin roles within the game?
Without admin all these clubs wouldn't exist so I would definitely encourage it.


Kayley Smith

Emily Brown

Emily Brown
Role: Referee

Tell us about how you got involved in refereeing?
I was participating in after school football training events with the foundation of light and was asked by Helen Edwards if I had ever thought about refereeing. From there, she sorted out everything and I completed the course in May 2019.

What do you enjoy about refereeing?
I enjoy learning more about the sport as well as being able to help others play too. I especially enjoy refereeing the younger teams at my club Pools Youth FC.

What are your greatest achievements in refereeing so far and why?
I would say that my biggest achievement so far is representing Durham FA in a girls grassroots development event at St. Georges park in march of last year. Also, when I completed my course, I found out I was the youngest there which was daunting at first however pushed me more to prove myself.

What is your best memory in refereeing?
Attending the event at St. Georges park was an amazing memory as I was able to meet many girls my age and older who enjoy the same things as me and share tips and experiences.

What are your goals in refereeing?
I hope to be able to reach a high standard that could help me in my chosen career path.

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced to date?
With the COVID-19 pandemic, I have missed out on a lot of experience which, as a newly qualified referee, may have helped me. This also meant that I became quite nervous on my first game back after such a long break.

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in refereeing?
To any girls looking to get involved in refereeing, I would say to take every piece of advice you get. I would also recommend attending development events as these may help you in your journey. This will allow you to talk to highly qualified referees who can answer any questions you may have and teach you things you may not already know.

Kathryn Murphy
Role: Coach (South Tyneside Ability FC)

Tell us about how you got involved in coaching?
I got involved in coaching through my sons’ disability football team, South Tyneside Ability FC.  My son has attended the football club since 2017. I have always tried to help out the best I could, helping to do dishes, tidying up and helping with fundraising ideas tec. I was asked by the Chairman to become a coach and attend a course delivered by Durham FA. I also have childcare and youth qualifications and I believe that was one of reasons I was asked to become a coach. 

What do you enjoy about coaching?
The thing I usually enjoy the most about coaching is seeing the children and young adults smiling and having fun while myself and the other coaches are coaching them. Its all about enjoying the training sessions and also being able to take them around the country for them to compete in different tournaments with other disability teams. 

What are your greatest achievements in football and why?
My greatest achievements in a football are seeing how much my coaching skills help the children and adults at the clubs, and helps them achieve their goals and even though they all have different disabilities, it doesn’t stop them enjoying their football. Its such an achievement for myself to see so much determination from each and every one of them.

What is your best football memory?
Before I became a coach my best memory was seeing my son winning player of the year and the top goal scorer of the year. 
After I became a coach the best memory so far was seeing all the children and adults playing football at St Georges Park when they all made it to the final of the peoples cup. Although they didn’t win they all had an amazing experience and enjoyed every minute of it. 

What are your goals?
My goals are to continue delivering coaching sessions to the children and adults to bring out their full potential while they enjoy and continue playing football and hopefully do more coaching courses in the future to better my knowledge and ability to continue providing coaching and support to the children, adults, staff and parents associated with South Tyneside Ability FC. 

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in football? 
The obstacles I have faced are trying to promote positive relationships between the players, as sometimes while they have different disabilities it can sometimes be more difficult to approach and try and talk to them. 
Another obstacle I faced personally was dealing with and overcoming Breast Cancer. I had to take some time off from the club. It was so hard trying to describe what happened to me to my son he has autism and ADHD and explaining that he couldn’t go to play football for a while. But I have beat it and I am back at training, I wouldn’t change it for the world its such a rewarding thing to do. 

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in coaching?
The advice I would give to any upcoming female coaches, “just do it” don’t let anyone stop you ! Its such a fun and rewarding thing to do and the possibilities you can achieve is endless. 


Kathryn Murphy

Beth Hepple

Beth Hepple
Role: Player (Durham Women) 

How I got involved in football?
I had a lot of energy when I was little so my dad used to take me outside and kick the ball around. I then started to go to local football sessions from 4 years old! 

What do I enjoy about playing football?
So many things, but mainly because it is an escape from the stresses of life, also it’s a great place to socially interact! 

What are my greatest achievements in football?
I would probably say making 150 senior appearances for Durham and representing my country at youth level. 

Best memory?
Playing against Chelsea in the fa cup quarter final 

What are my goals in the sport?
To be the very best I can and hopefully win silverware in the future. 

Biggest obstacles?
I would probably say balancing life whilst also playing semi professional football. There is a lot of time management and dedication needed to play at this level but it’s something I love and wouldn’t change! 

Advice for females looking to get involved?
Football is great in so many ways, it keeps you fit and is a great way to socialise

Helen Conley

Role: Referee

Tell us about how you got involved in refereeing?
I absolutely love football but would never have been good enough to play at a high level. There were very few girl’s teams around when I was at school, so the opportunities were never really there. I remember going to watch a Durham FA County Cup Final with my Dad and being fixated on the Assistant Referee running up and down the line. “I could do that” I declared, “Well, actually… you can!” he said. Seventeen years on, it turns out he was right! 

What do you enjoy about refereeing?
Refereeing is a great way of being involved in football, without actually playing. It’s one of the most fun, frustrating, rewarding and challenging things I have ever done! I think unless you’re actually involved in refereeing, it’s difficult to describe the many highs and lows that you go through as a match official every season. I wouldn’t change it for the world though!

I have been lucky enough to officiate in 8 different countries and experience different cultures, international teams and work with other match officials from across Europe. Refereeing has helped my confidence and made me better equipped to deal with challenging situations in my everyday life. Furthermore, refereeing is a great way of keeping fit! I regularly train with a group of referees in Durham, from Football League, down to grassroots level. We follow referee-specific training plans and encourage and support each other throughout the season and in particular the lead up towards fitness tests.

I love helping others and perform duties as a coach and mentor to female referees who have just started out on their refereeing journey. Since 2013 I have ran the North East Women Referee Development Group, which allows female referees from Durham, North Riding and Northumberland to meet up throughout the season and receive in-service training, whilst also having the opportunity to network with other female match officials in the area. 

The biggest thing I have taken from refereeing however, is friendship! I have met some of the absolute best people through refereeing, people who will be friends for life. The camaraderie, confelicity and support received from fellow referees is second to none and I’m really proud to be part of the refereeing family.

What are your greatest achievements in refereeing so far and why?
I have been fortunate enough to have been appointed to a number of high profile matches during my refereeing career. This includes The FA Women’s Cup Final on two occasions, the first as an Assistant Referee in 2012 at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate and more recently as Fourth Official in 2017 at Wembley Stadium.

At the end of last season, I was honoured to be appointed as Referee for The FA Women’s Super League Continental Cup Final (Chelsea FCW vs Arsenal WFC), which was played at Nottingham Forest in front of almost 7000 spectators. When I completed my referee’s course at Durham FA all those years ago, I never dreamed that these kind of achievements were even a possibility for me.

What is your best memory in refereeing?
One of my best memories in refereeing was back in November 2016 when I was appointed as Referee for the Northern League Division 1 fixture: South Shields FC vs North Shields FC. This was a massive local derby match and the first time that both teams had met in the league since 2014, when the sides met at South Shields FC’s temporary ground at Peterlee in front of only 138 spectators. With the management team switching between North and South clubs, as well as a few of the players, there was a little bit of history there, as well as the obvious bragging rights for whoever would be victorious! Former Sunderland AFC player Julio Arca was the South Shields captain and the game was played out this time in front of 2651 spectators, with North Shields sealing the victory with a single goal six minutes from the end of the match. It was a fantastic game and as the match referee, I was privileged to have a front row seat of one of the biggest derby matches in the North East!

What are your goals in refereeing?
When I started out on my refereeing journey, I didn’t really have a plan or any ambitions of where I wanted it to take me. Once I moved into refereeing adult football, I really enjoyed it and decided to apply for promotion, as I love a challenge! It took me a long time and a lot of setbacks, but after six years of trying, I finally achieved my level 4 promotion (Supply League) and two years later I was promoted to level 3 (Contributory League) and have been at this level for the past seven seasons.

All the setbacks and disappointments have made me stronger and more determined to succeed and have improved me not only as a referee, but also as a person. I have become much more resilient and as a result more experienced and able to deal with pretty much anything that is thrown at me! Obviously, I want to try and progress as far as possible in both men’s and women’s football, however my main objective is to enjoy every game and try to fulfil my potential.

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced to date?
I’m very proud of everything I have achieved as a referee. When I first qualified back in 2004 there were very few female officials around and I felt (and still do to a certain extent!) that I had to work extremely hard to prove myself and change the perceptions of clubs, players and spectators. Operating at a semi-professional level in the men’s game in what is still predominantly a ‘man’s world’ has been a massive challenge, but I feel that I have established myself now as an experienced match official and have gained the respect and have been accepted by the clubs as well as my colleagues. It’s no longer a surprise to see a female match official turn up on a Saturday afternoon to take charge of a game and that is a great achievement in itself, just being accepted as today’s match referee.

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in refereeing?
If you’re thinking about doing your referees course, stop thinking – just do it! There is no better time to be a referee (male or female!), the level of support, guidance and opportunities available are immense and if you have the dedication and desire… who knows where your refereeing journey might take you! 

Helen Connolly

Rose Fraser
Role: Russell Foster Girls League Manager 

What is your role with the RF Girls League?       
Girls League Manager 

Tell us about how you got involved in the RF Girls league?
I was asked by the League Secretary if I would come back into Football after a long time out to help give an independent approach to the girl’s league.

What do you enjoy about being involved with the RF Girls league?
I enjoy the active role I have, certainly enjoy helping the coaches and parents to understand and overcome some of the issues we face everyday, but most of all seeing the girls enjoy themselves in the most positive environment we can give them.

What is your best memory you have faced in this role?
My best memory goes back several years when a little u10 team turned up to play , they had never played in a league  before , no matter what the outcome each week they smiled and took everything in their stride they were the most positive group of girls I had ever met and at that time the first team in a totally new club .14 yrs on those girls are now coaching , refereeing and some of them are involved in running that same club that has now grown into one of our biggest clubs in our league.

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in this role?
The biggest obstacle is trying to change mindsets of people that just don't understand how the female game is just as important as any male game.

What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in roles within the game of football? 
My advice would be to get involved in any way that they can, it is certainly something that they would enjoy.

Being involved in a club or league opens so many new friendships and certainly keeps you busy but when you see your hard work come together the feelings are amazing.