Before the Women’s Super League season began, I wrote an article for The Barmy Article – the first women’s fanzine – on the state of refereeing in the women’s game.
— Andy – Barmy Article MUWomen fanzine (@sl8r7) October 11, 2021
Towards the end of last season it was announced that the PGMOL would oversee the officiating in the top flight of the women’s league. It gave people hope that the standard and professionalism would improve but alas, not much has changed.
We have a fantastic league here in England- the top flight and a large percentage of the Championship have full-time professional players and coaches and yet our referees are not. That’s neither fair on the officials nor the teams they oversee each weekend.
In the original article, I reflected upon the worst decision ever made in a football match- ever! It was in the 2019/2020 season, Manchester United women were playing away at Reading when the home side won a free-kick just outside of the penalty area.
It was brilliantly defended by club captain Katie Zelem who clearly headed it out for a corner, arms down by her side. Much to everyone’s amazement, the ref blew for a penalty. “Handball”, Kirsty Dowle declared.
Now, luckily, that isn’t a weekly occurrence but I’ve witnessed players receive two yellow cards and stay on the pitch, fouls that are shocking, endangering an opponent and play being waved on, clear goals disallowed for not crossing the line when they had, and many offside goals being allowed to stand.
This is the biggest problem facing women’s football today and in some ways it feels like these errors and inadequacies are being further highlighted by this season’s broadcasting deal.
Now these mistakes are on show for all the world to see and ridicule. I wanted these problems fixed before we put our sport on a global stage. How will people take the game seriously if the FA doesn’t?
We have some of the best players in the world playing in our league as the Ballon d’Or shortlist highlighted. They deserve better than errors like this costing them games.
Furthermore, as I addressed in the original article, wrong decisions don’t just put points at risk, they put players at risk. If dangerous tackles go unpunished, more players think they can get away with it and serious injuries could occur.
I don’t blame the officials for the mistakes made, they need to be given the time and resources to allow them to learn and improve. We do have some good quality officials that display a lot of potential and are passionate about the success of our league but the FA needs to invest in them.
What’s the solution? I think it’s a simple one really, the money generated from the broadcast deal needs to be spent on training and paying officials fairly. We need professional, full-time referees and the chance for those already officiating in the league to take that next step.