The FA have announced female referees increased to 2,146 for English football. This is a 72% increase since 2016.
A recent review of the FA’s Gameplan for Growth has shown significant results. This includes a 63% increase of WSL and a 55% increase of FA Women’s Championship games with a female referee in 2019/20.
Additionally, four female referees and five assistants are now on the FIFA list of match officials. Last year, Sian Massey became the first female to officiate in a European men’s match.
Joanna Stimpson, the FA’s Women’s Professional Game Refereeing Manager, reflects on the improvement.
“Our work at grassroots was fundamentally about recruitment, targeting our existing pool of players [across junior and adult age groups] as the core target audience and actively ensuring that there are opportunities for all people from all backgrounds to get involved in the game as referees.”
Stimpson and the FA identified the need to change both perception and education with the Gameplan for Growth. This included using more entry points like refereeing being everything from a hobby to a new career.
“We needed to treat refereeing in the women’s game as different to the men’s,” Stimpson said.
“The game is played differently, the players behave differently, and the environment is different.
“The creation of the newly created women’s game referee pathway is a gamechanger for our long-term progress.”
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The plan also created a new senior development group. Specialist coaches provide individual support before, during, and after matches. A Professional Game Match Officials (PGMOL) partnership helps elevate fitness levels. Development days can welcome more than 100 refs for networking and training.
In the coming months, the FA plans to launch a 2020-24 strategy to build on the success.