Amy Fearn has made history in English football by becoming the first woman to referee an English Football League match.
The match between Coventry City and Nottingham Forest took place on Tuesday 9th February 2010 at the Ricoh Arena, and was originally refereed by Tony Bates, who commenced the match, he sustained a calf injury and had to be replaced after 70 minutes of the game, he was then replaced by Amy Fearn, who was one of his assistants, making her the first woman to referee a League game in England.
Fearn aged 31, has been refereeing since the age of 16, and has been a referee in the Football Conference and a referee’s assistant in the Football League for nearly seven years.
Women have been linesmen more correctly now called referees assistants since the 1990’s, but this was the first occasion a woman has actually refereed a Football League match. The historic moment was greeted with cheers from the 18,000 strong crowd, when Fearn blew her first whistle. With Coventry already 1-0 in front, she didn’t have to make any controversial decisions during her twenty minutes in charge.
Fearn would one day like to officiate in the Premier League, although that possibility still looks to be a long way into the future. The question remains as to why women aren’t regularly officiating at football matches
Although her twenty minutes of League football passed without incident, she was heavily criticized by Luton Town manager Mike Newell in 2006 when she was running the line and declined his team a penalty. Newell was quoted as saying ” It’s bad enough with incapable referees and linesmen but if you start bringing women into the game, you have big problems” he then suggested that women in football was a just token of political correctness. Newell was later fined for his comments and offered a full apology.
So is the lack of female referees due to a chauvinistic attitude of a male dominated sport, or are women simply not up to the job. The role of the referee is viewed as a tough job both physically and mentally, but a national shortage of referees could be solved if more women were encouraged to take up the role.