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!