Page 26 - Referees

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A
s I read the appointments list, to
check which games I had in
November, something struck me:
I was down to referee a Wessex Premier
Division fixture between Totton & Eling
and Lymington Town. Then I saw that my
assistants were MISS P Wyatt and MISS A
Robinson. We were going to be an
all-female team and the penny dropped
– I knew this was a big occasion.
Minutes later, my phone rang. It was Paula
Wyatt. As soon as I hung up, it rang again
–it was Amy Robinson. Both shared the
excitement that we would be officiating
together. We’d worked together before, but
not as a team. And not only was this the first
time we would officiate together, but this
would be the first time any all-female team
would officiate in the league’s history at a
Premier Division match. Coincidentally, the
first time the league had appointed an all-
female official team to any fixture was three
years ago, between Blackfield and Langley,
when I was also in the middle.
The build up to the game became intense
due to the media interest. To us, we were just
three officials preparing to do our job, but to
the media, this was newsworthy. Before the
game, a local newspaper covered the story,
which led to additional press attention on the
day. We agreed not to talk to journalists at
the game until after the final whistle, so we
could focus on getting ready for the game.
We got to the ground two hours before kick-
off, thinking we’d get there before any media
arrived, only to be greeted by a TV camera
crew and reporters already waiting for us. In
that moment, despite the fact we had been
determined to think of this as just another
game, we realised that the pressure really
was on us to perform. This wasn’t about
personal glory, but doing a great job to build
on the positive reputation of female referees
and we were determined not to let anyone
down. Any mistake on any week is hard to
bear – but making a mistake in front of the
media could have been disastrous.
Pre-match was a bit of a blur, but we were
delighted to receive so many supportive
comments from officers, managers and clubs
from our league as well as fellow officials,
friends and family. We wondered whether
preparing the teams would be different,
given all the fuss, but it wasn’t: the players
didn’t react or play up to the media at all and
they treated us the same as they would any
other week, which gave us an even greater
respect for them.
The game itself was like any other game. Four
goals and four cautions; it ended with a 3-1
win for Totton & Eling, two satisfied teams and
with no controversy. The players shook our
hands, themanagers congratulated us and we
looked at one another with huge relief.
Now it was time to share our experiencewith
thewaitingmedia, whowere all supportive and
positive – both in their questions on the day
and in their subsequent reporting of the event,
as were the quotes fromthe club’smanagers.
The fuss has died down, the news is old and
another “first” for female officials has passed.
One day, female referees won’t even raise an
eyebrow, never mind mobilise a TV camera
crew. For now, though, we were all honoured
to be part of an historical moment, to have
been able to do our jobs well and to have
added to the reputation of female officials,
and we look forward to the opportunity to
get together as a team again soon.
Women’s trio appear in
theWestern League
LucyMay
We were going to
be an all-female
team – I knew this
was a big occasion
24
Feature
Referee, Lucy May (Centre), with her team