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.

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.

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 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. She is also professionally active in sports and works for the French Workers’ Sports and Gymnastics Federation.

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.

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.

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. ”

Kateryna Monzul

Since 2011 she has been leading matches in the Perscha Liha, the second highest men’s league, and since 2016 in the highest league, the Premjer Liha.

She studied architecture and urban planning.

I could not find out too much about the Ukrainian born in 1981 about her involvement in men’s football.

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.

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.

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 is the first match official in Spain to play in the Primera División.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.


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