There are thousands of women working as referees in the world, but this list highlights only the most notable ones. They have worked hard to become the best that they can be in a men-dominated field, so if you’re a woman aspiring to be a referee then the people below should give you inspiration.
1. Bibiana Steinhaus (German)
Referee Bibiana Steinhaus made history by becoming the first female to take charge of a top fight league game in of Europe’s elite leagues in September. Steinhaus took the whistle for the 1-1 draw German Bundesliga tie at the Olympic stadium between Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen.
The 38-year-old referee made the step-up after six years in Bundesliga 2 and her top-flight debut went without incident or controversy. She became a professional referee in 1999 by officiating matches in the Women’s Bundesliga and was also selected for the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and UEFA Women.
2. Esther Staubli (Swiss)
A new milestone was achieved in India last month as Esther Staubli became the first female referee to officiate a match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 following her appointment as the referee for the encounter between Japan and New Caledonia that was played on October 14, at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata.
Staubli was one of seven women referees invited to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India. She has also officiated the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, UEFA Women’s Champions League Final, 2015 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament Rio 2016 and UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 Final.
3. Amy Fearn (English)
Amy Elizabeth Fearn is an English football referee from Loughborough, Leicestershire, who in 2010 became the first woman to referee in The Football League.
With a degree in economics and a full-time career in accountancy, having also refereed football since age 14, she became only the second woman after Wendy Toms to rise to the position of assistant referee in English professional football. On February 9, 2010 she became the first woman to act as the main referee in a Football League match.
4. Salma Rhadia Mukansanga (Rwanda)
Twenty-eight year-old Mukasanga began her refereeing career in 2007 before becoming an international referee in 2012. Since then, she has officiated at major tournaments, including Africa U-17 and U-20 finals as well as senior World Cup preliminary games, 2015 All African Games, and the 2015 CECAFA women challenge that took place in Jinja, Uganda.
5. Akhona Makalima (South African)
The 29-year-old was last month selected alongside 38 other referees from different African nations by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to an elite referee training course for women to be held in Morocco with the hope that it will open doors for her to officiate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Makalima is the only woman to officiate in the Absa Premiership (South Africa’s top flight), a world dominated by the men. But she isn’t easily intimidated.
She officially began referring at the 2011/2012 SAB league. Her first PSL match was in February 2015, when the University of Pretoria (Tuks) played Mpumalanga Black Aces at Tuks stadium and she recently officiated a league match between SuperSport United and Polokwane City.
6. Mary Njoroge (Kenyan)
Kenya’s FIFA female assistant referee Mary Anne Njoroge is among the very first women to ever officiate in the Kenyan Premier League and her career went a notch higher when she was shortlisted to officiate in the 8th Africa Women Championships staged in Equatorial Guinea in October 2012. She has never looked back since as she became a permanent fixture in local league matches.
7. Damaris Kimani (Kenyan)
A no-nonsense referee, Kimani has been known not to be intimidated by Kenya Premier League players as she made bold decisions without fear or favour on the pitch.
A Fifa elite ‘A’ referee, Kimani has also officiated in various matches around the continent including the final round of the African Women’s Championships qualifiers in 2014. Now officiating in the second tier National Super League, she has won admiration for her sobriety when handling highly-charged matches especially involving Gor Mahia.
8. Sian Massey-Ellis (English)
The 31-year-old turned professional and was appointed to the FIFA list of female assistant referees in 2010, and was assistant for her first Premier League game in December 2010. Massey-Ellis says that even if she inspires one female to take up refereeing, she will be happy.
“I find that you stand out sometimes for the right reasons. As long as I keep doing my job, it doesn’t matter if I’m a woman or a man. Hopefully I’m changing some people’s mindsets. Even if I inspire one or two girls to take up the whistle or flag, then I’ve done a good job,” she recently said.
9. Bernadette Kwimbira-Mzika (Malawian)
She has won praises in Malawi for blazing new ground by officiating at major international contests, such as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Bernadette Kwimbira-Mzika’s passion for refereeing started when she first attended football matches after joining the Malawian Army as a soldier 17 years ago. A mother of two, Kwimbira-Mzika had to attend a refereeing course for beginners, where she earned a Grade 3 refereeing certificate.
10. Law Bik-chi (Hong Kong)
Referee Law Bik-chi aims to claim another first for women in Hong Kong football, following in the footsteps of trailblazing coach Chan Yuen-ting, who steered Eastern to the league championship in 2016.
Having been a referee at various levels for more than a decade, Law quit her full-time job last year to try to become the first female match official to operate at the highest level of the domestic game, the Hong Kong Premier League. “I started as a referee in 2006, becoming a Fifa women’s referee in 2013, and now my target is to be the first female match official in the Hong Kong Premier League,” said Law.