We caught up with Tabitha, a level 7 referee who is now in week 4 of the Women’s Referee Pathway. Let’s find out more about her journey.
Why did you decide to become a referee?
“I have played since I was four years old, first in a mixed league where my friend and I were the only girls. From there, I got into girls’ academy football and the women’s league. I love the game and wanted to be involved in more ways than just playing and thought it would be interesting to see things from a different angle.”
Where do you currently officiate?
“I have an exciting mix of appointments. I’m in the middle for local youth games in the league and cup, and for my school for younger age groups. Then, through the Kent Development Academy, I got appointments for the Isthmian U18 league, Gillingham Academy, and made my first FA Cup appointment in the early rounds of this year’s Women’s FA Cup. I also get regular AR appointments in the SCEFL First Division. Now through the FA Women’s Emerging Talent Programme, I’ll be officiating in the Women’s National League and for Women’s academy teams.”
Please tell us about the female pathway and how this supports female match officials.
“The pathway is a new FA initiative that has identified 50 women from around England who are at the start of their refereeing journey and have the passion and commitment to progress into the women’s and men’s game. As women’s football expands after the success of the Lionesses at the Euros, the aim is to ensure there are enough qualified and experienced female officials in the women’s game, which there aren’t at the moment. I still play in the SCEFL women’s league and haven’t seen a female official all season. The participants on the pathway have access to local mentors and get together once every other month in regional groups for additional training and support, as well as nationally a few times a year to learn as a group and hear from more experienced referees. We also get access to the nutrition, fitness, and staff that support the elite male referees and have the chance to officiate in the WNL, WSL, and for the England age groups at St George’s Park.”
What do you hope to achieve by joining the female pathway?
“It’s an amazing opportunity to progress as a referee. Mainly I want to learn more about refereeing and make myself better. I hope to get the experience of learning from the best referees in the game, and have an understanding of what it takes to be a professional referee. I’m also looking forward to working with the fitness and nutrition teams and the specialists at the FA to get myself to the level to officiate in men’s and women’s football at the highest level possible.”
What advice would you give a young female match official coming into the game?
“First of all, get involved and try it out. Referees and clubs will make you welcome. Second, be yourself and be confident, build relationships with as many people as possible to help you on your journey, and don’t be frightened to ask for help. Third, make sure you have a mentor or someone you can discuss things with - this could be another referee or a family member. As a referee, you have to make decisions; some people will inevitably disagree. You also can’t be perfect and make the right decision every time, leading to you questioning yourself and affecting your decision-making. Having someone to talk things through with and learning from your mistakes is important.”
Where do you like to see yourself in the next few years?
“I’m doing my A-Levels now and then plan to go to university. I’m hoping that by the time I finish my degree, officials in the Women’s Super League will have become professional, and I will have the opportunity to be appointed to the professional list. The Emerging Talent Pathway encourages us to dream big and work toward those goals. Having been lucky enough to follow the Lionesses over the past ten years and see them go from playing in front of small crowds in the UK, to seeing them live at the World Cup in France, and being lucky enough to be in the crowd for the Euros final victory last year, I think the dream is to officiate in a Women’s game at a sold-out Wembley.”
If you are interested in becoming a referee, check out our Get Into Refereeing workshops.