English, Extra, Women in Football

Female football referee in male football matches

A female football referee in a match of two male teams is not rare in the lower classes, but in the top and professional leagues.

This alphabetically sorted overview presents these current and previous female pioneers.

Hints about further female football referees to be added are welcome to me or here in the comments.

Oleksandra Ardasheva

She was born in 1987 in Ukraine and is part of Kateryna Monzul’s refereeing team, assisting her in the Premjer-Liha since 2018. She was also part of the first all-female team in Europe as an assistant, which led a professional men’s game in November 2020.

Marie-Soleil Beaudoin

Born in 1982, the Canadian became a referee at the age of 20 and is now a FIFA referee. The Professor of Physiology and Biophysics has been leading matches in the USL (United Soccer League) Championship (= 2nd division) since June 2015, and in the newly founded Canadian professional league, the CPL (Canadian Premier League), since 2019. 

Chantal Boudreau

The FIFA assistant referee was born in 1989 and passed her refereeing exam at the age of 21. She has been leading matches in the CPL since 2019 and was assistant referee for the world’s first professional men’s football match, which was led by an all-female team of referees.

Karen Callado 

The Brazilian-born sports scientist was initially a professional football player. At the age of 24, however, she didn’t hang up her shoes, but has been leading matches as a referee ever since. She completed her training as a referee during her studies in order to earn money on the side. In 2014 she moved from Brazil to the USA to Los Angeles and has been directing USL Championship games since August 2020.

Carol Anne Chénard

Born in 1977, the Canadian was already very sporty in her youth. She completed her training as a referee at the age of 15.

In the meantime, the doctor of biology for microbiology and immunology has received numerous awards as a referee. She has been a FIFA referee for quite some time, from May 2009 she was a referee in the USL Championship, from 2019 in the CPL. Also in 2019, she led the world’s first all-female female referee team in a professional men’s football match in the CPL.

In the summer of 2019 she fell ill with breast cancer and in October 2020 announced the end of her career as a referee for health reasons.

Dagmar Damková

Born in the Czech Republic in 1974, she started playing football at the age of 14 and became a referee at 21. She was the first female football referee to whistle competitive matches in men’s football in the Czech Republic (first time in October 2003). In 2011, the English teacher ended her career as a referee and became the first female member of the UEFA Referees’ Committee.

 

Sheena Dickson

Born in 1982, the Canadian has been a referee since she was 13 years old. She has been an assistant referee in the CPL since 2019.

Amy Fearn, née Rayner

Born in England in 1977, she wanted to play football, but there was no opportunity for her as a girl. So she started attending a refereeing course at the age of 13 – together with her father. The studied economist and chartered accountant has been a referee in the Football Conference (fifth highest male league) since 2004 and referee assistant in the Football League (second highest male league) since 2005. However, she was the first woman in England to lead a Football League match: in 2010, the main referee, Tony Bates, suffered a calf strain in the Coventry vs. Amy Fearn then took charge for the remaining 20 minutes of the game. In 2013 she also became the first female football referee to lead an FA Cup match in main draw.

Stéphanie Fortin

Born in 1984, she completed her refereeing training in 1984. She currently assists in the CPL and was assistant referee at the world’s first professional men’s football match led by an all-female team of female referees.

Cheryl Foster

The former record Welsh international ended her career as a footballer and became a referee in 2013. She has been a FIFA referee since 2015 and in August 2018 became the first female referee in the Cymru Premier (the first Welsh league in men’s football). She is also a member of the Technical Advisory Panel of The IFAB.

Stéphanie Frappart

Born in 1983 in Herblay-sur-Seine, France, she began playing football at the age of eleven and successfully passed the refereeing examination at 14. After a few years as a player and referee, she decided to become a match official. In 2003 she whistled in men’s games for the first time, in summer 2014 in Ligue 2 (she was also appointed as fourth official in Ligue 1) and finally in spring 2019 in Ligue 1. She was the first woman in France to be appointed as a referee in the upper men’s leagues. She became world famous the female football referee who refereed the Super Cup Men’s Final 2019 and in the Champions League (2020). She is also professionally active in sports and works for the French Workers’ Sports and Gymnastics Federation.

Marie-Han Gagnon-Chretien

Born in 1990, the Canadian has been a referee since the age of 15 and is now also a FIFA assistant referee. The assistant referee has been in the CPL since 2019.

Gertrud Gebhard, née Regus

In 1980, the then 18-year-old became a referee, having already been active in football as a player. She was the first woman in Germany to lead a women’s international match (1991) and the final of the Women’s DFB Cup (1992). In that year she was also appointed as a referee for the then men’s regional league as the third highest league, one year later also as assistant referee in the 2nd Bundesliga. This was followed in 1995 and 1996 by one match each as assistant referee in the 1st Bundesliga. After that she was relegated and should not play in the two upper men’s leagues any more. “Without perspective” was the reason given. This was followed by a dispute with her association refereeing committee, which resulted in her being removed from the FIFA list. As a result, she resigned as an active referee at the beginning of 1997. Today, however, the administrative employee works as a refereeing observer in the amateur sector.

Sarah Ho

The Australian and assistant referee was the first female match official at an A-League match. From 2007 to 2016 the teacher assisted in A-League games.

Sandra Hunt

Together with Kari Seitz she was one of the first two female referees in the MLS (Major Soccer League). Born in 1959, the US-American with a university degree in Leisure Studies became only 28 referees. From 1998 to 2004 she was a referee in the MLS and from 1999 to 2004 she was a FIFA referee. After her career as a referee ended, there was no female referee in the MLS for 16 years.

Riem Hussein

The pharmacist, who was born in 1980, has been a referee since 2001. Since 2015 she has been a referee in the 3rd league. She was also a soccer player and probably also had inquiries from HSV and VfL Wolfsburg. But then, in her mid-20s, she decided to only whistle matches.

Kate Jacewicz

Born in 1985, the Australian is the first female referee in the A-League. She has been leading matches since she was 13 years old.

Sarah Jones (née Walker)

Born in 1990, the assistant referee has a degree in business studies and works as a logistics planner and dispatcher. She has been a referee since 2007 and a FIFA referee since 2014.

She is the first female New Zealander to lead a match in the Australian A-League. Prior to this, she was assistant referee in this league from 2016. 

Ekaterina “Katja” Koroleva

Born in 1987, the US medical assistant has been a professional referee since 2013, a FIFA referee since 2014 and has been coaching matches in the USL since May 2015.

Gabrielle Lemieux

Since 2019, the 1990 born Canadian has been an official player in the CPL.

Myriam Marcotte

The Canadian studied PR in 1992, but since 2017 she has been exclusively a match official in the Canadian Football Association and also a FIFA referee. Since 2019 she has been managing matches in the CPL.

Samantha Martinez

Born in 1993, the referee led two games in the USL Championship in 2018.

Sian Massey-Ellis

Born in 1985 and awarded the MBE, she is the first female assistant referee to be deployed in the Premier League (2019). She is also the mother of a small child. In an interview on reconciliation, she said that the period after birth was a challenge for her and that she feared for her career. “The doctors told me that I could never be a referee again. […] I could have taken another refereeing role, but I wasn’t willing to give up my career just because I had a baby. ”

Adorae Monroy

Since July 2020, the psychology graduate has been in charge of games in the USL Championship.

Kateryna Monzul

The Ukrainian born in 1981 and studied architecture and urban planning has been in charge of games in the Perscha Liha, the second highest male league, since 2011 and in the highest league, the Premjer Liha, since 2016.

She was a referee for the first all-female team in Europe, which led a professional men’s game in November 2020.

Tania Morais

After the 1982-born Luxembourger was initially assistant referee in the BGL Ligue, the highest men’s football league in Luxembourg, she has been a referee in this league since the 2013/14 season.

Salma Mukansanga

She whistles in the highest Rwandan league and will also be the first African woman to lead an international match of men. She studied nursing and obstetrics and is a passionate sportswoman. As a teenager she wanted to become a professional basketball player. In her last year at secondary school she became a football referee. In 2008, she then arbitrated in the top women’s league and in the second highest men’s league.

Kathryn Nesbitt

In 2019, the assistant referee resigned from her assistant professorship in chemistry in order to work exclusively as a match official in future. She has been an assistant MLS referee since 2015, FIFA assistant referee since 2016 and made history in August 2020 as the first female assistant referee at an MLS final.

Alyssa Nichols

Since September 2020 she has been directing matches in the USL Championship.

Amber O’Connor

Born in 1990, the student of paediatrics is an assistant referee. She has been assisting in the USL since August 2018 and already before that in May 2017 in the US Open Cup (also a professional competition).

Tess Olofsson

When Tess Olofssohn made her debut in Sweden’s Superrettan (2nd men’s league) in mid-October 2020, she was also the first female referee in Sweden to be used in this Swedish men’s football league. Already the previous year she was appointed there as 4th official. Born in Malmö in 1988, she has already been voted referee of the year in Swedish men’s football. Her dream? To be a referee in the Swedish top football league (m) as well.

Franca Overtoom

The Dutchwoman from Obdam, born in 1991 or 1992, has long been a referee. In the Eerste Divisie (2nd division) she made her debut as assistant referee for Telstar against Jong FC Utrecht in 2020.

Tori Penso 

The mid-thirties from Florida completed her training as a referee at the age of 18. She later completed her studies in digital marketing and her master’s degree in business administration. After 16 years she is the first referee in the highest men’s football league in the USA, the Major League Soccer. She made her debut there on 24 September 2020.

Nicole Petignat

Born in 1966, the Swiss was one of the first women to play in the highest professional leagues, including the Swiss Super League and the Austrian Bundesliga. She was also the first female football referee to whistle for a men’s UEFA Cup match: on 14 August 2003, the qualifying first leg between AIK Solang and Fylkir Reykjavik. The physiotherapist and music teacher had been a referee since 1983 and ended her career in 2008.

Guadalupe Porras Ayuso

At the age of 16, the 1987-born Spaniard successfully passed her refereeing exam and another 16 years later she assisted in a match for the first time in the Primera División in Spain. She has already written history twice: First in 2019 as Spain’s first match officials deployed in the Primera División and finally in 2020 as the first Spanish match officials in an international competition in men’s football (Europa League, LASK-Ludogoresk).

Michelle Pye

Born in Canada in 1978, she completed her refereeing training at the age of 13 and was a FIFA referee from 2007 to 2017. She took two breaks to listen to her children. From 2015 to 2017 she was in charge of matches in the USL Championship.

Katrin Rafalski

Born in 1982, the former goalkeeper and midfielder was unable to continue her playing career due to a broken shoulder. However, she had also been a referee since the age of 15. In the meantime she has become an X-ray assistant and has been employed as a referee in the 3rd division and as assistant referee in the 2nd men’s national league since 2016.

 

Laura Rodriguez 

She has been leading the USL Championship since July 2020.

Anastasiya Romanyuk

Born in 1984, the Ukrainian has been a referee since 2005 and a FIFA referee since 2015. She acts both as a referee and as an assistant. She was appointed fourth official in the first all-female team in Europe to lead a professional men’s game in November 2020.

Nicole Schumacher

In her youth, the police commissioner, born in 1979, was active as an athlete, but also as a referee. In 2007/08 she was on the one hand a referee in the former regional leagues South and North as third highest class and on the other hand she was also am assistant referee in the 2nd men’s national league. Even though she was granted a successful future, she ended her refereeing career in 2008 for personal reasons. She stated that nothing negative had happened, but that restrictions on her privacy had become too great.

Kari Seitz

She is now Senior Manager of Refereeing at FIFA and was a FIFA referee from 1999 to 2013 and previously a referee in the MLS from 1998 to 1999. With Sandra Hunt she was the first female referee in the MLS. Born in 1960, the US-American completed her refereeing training at the age of 14.

Natalie Simon

She completed her refereeing training during her college years and has been competing in the USL Championship since October 2018.

Shona Shukrula

Born in 1991, the public prosecutor played football until she was 18 years old. Then an injury ended her career. But she did not want to turn her back on football and became a referee. She has been a FIFA referee since 2017 and since September 2020 she has been the first female football referee in the Netherlands to be used for a men’s professional game. It was only in December 2019 that she made her debut as a referee in the Tweede Divisie, the third highest league and highest amateur class. Now her assignment came as 4th official in the Eerste Divisie. “It was a nice, quiet start” she said and estimates that it will be at least another two years before she will be used in the Eredivisie, Holland’s highest professional league (m).

Melissa Snedden

Born in 1988, the geography teacher from Canada passed her refereeing exam at the age of 12. The FIFA assistant referee has been an assistant referee since 2018 and the same in the CPL since 2019.

Esther Staubli

Born in 1979, the teacher has been playing in the Swiss Challenge League, the second-highest league in men’s football, since the 2014/15 season. The teacher was also a successful player, but in her own words not good enough for the national team. But because she wanted to continue playing the sport, she became a referee and thus found her great passion.

Bibiana Steinhaus

Bibiana Steinhaus was also born in 1979. The police officer has been a referee since her youth and has been employed in the 1st Men’s Bundesliga since 2007 as assistant referee (fourth official, to be precise) and since 2017 as a referee. Formerly active as a left defender, she was persuaded by her father (also a referee) to take the referee exam. She resigned in October 2020.

 

Maryna Striletska

She was born in 1983 in Ukraine and is a member of Kateryna Monzul’s refereeing team, assisting her in the Premjer-Liha since 2018. She was also part of the first all-female team in Europe as an assistant, which led a professional men’s game in November 2020.

Sarah Telek

One of the youngest referees currently in the team of the female football referees in male leagues is the Austrian Sara Telek. She was born in 1988 and was first appointed as assistant referee in February 2020 in the men’s 1st Bundesliga in Austria. 2019 she made her debut in the 2nd men’s Bundesliga, also as an assistant referee on the sidelines. She played soccer in her youth, but then at the age of 18 she wanted to improve her knowledge of rules and attended a refereeing course – and successfully completed it. Soon after, she changed her jersey from player to referee. Soccer is not only her hobby, but also her profession: She is not only an actress and speaker, but also moderates and comments on soccer matches on TV as a sports journalist.

Wendy Toms

Born in 1962, the parcel post manager became a referee at the end of the 1980s and in 1991 was already the fourth official in the former English third men’s league. From 1997 to 2005 she was assistant referee in the Premier League on several occasions. Today she no longer plays in the top leagues, but in the Football Conference (fifth highest league in England).

Claudia Umpierrez

The Uruguayan, born in 1983, comes from a football family: her father was a football coach, her maternal grandfather a referee, her uncle a professional player. When she was 16 years old, her aunt successfully took part in a refereeing course. Two years later, Claudia Umpierrez began her refereeing training and law studies at the same time. The current banker and occasional private lawyer became a pioneer for female referees in her country and made history when she was the first female football referee to be appointed to the top two Uruguayan men’s leagues in 2016. She became a mother at the beginning of 2014, but was back on the field a short time later, including in the summer at the 2014 U-20 World Cup in Canada.

Christina Unkel

Born in 1988, the US-American already successfully passed her referee exam at the age of 10. Since July 2017, the attorney for sports law has been leading matches in the USL Championship.

Ceciah Valero

She won two games in the 2018 USL Championship.

Alexis Vaughan

Born in Canada in 1988, the assistant referee was the fourth official in the world’s first all-female refereeing team in a professional men’s football match in the CPL in May 2019 and completed her refereeing training at the age of 12. She has been assisting in the USL Championship since 2015 and in the CPL since 2019.

Nelly Viennot

The 1.52 m tall French woman came to football through her father and initially played as a goalkeeper. In 1987, she successfully passed the examination to become a referee. In 1996, at the age of 34, she was the first assistant referee in France to be appointed in Ligue 1. Three years later, she became part of Éric Poulain’s refereeing team and, until 2007, was not only assistant referee in numerous Ligue 1 matches, but also in the Coupe de France, the Europa League and the Men’s Champions League. She also directed matches as a female football referee in the third French men’s league. In 2000, her left ear suffered 25% hearing loss after a firecracker hit her in the head during the Strasbourg – Metz game and exploded. After her active time, in 2007, she became a member of the FFF (French Football Federation) refereeing commission and, as a mother of two, still leads matches in the Lorraine regional association.

 

Finally, a link to an article by Gherado Bonini on PlayingPast, an online magazine for sports history. Gheradi Bonini deals with Edith Klinger, who was a football referee in Austria in the mid-1930s and thus certainly one of the first on the European continent. At a time when it was still unusual for women to play football.