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UK accused of lagging behind Europe and could be decade away from female referee

Italy Soccer Champions League
(Image credit: Marco Alpozzi)

The Premier League could still be a decade away from assigning its first female referee despite the increasing number of ground-breaking appointments on the continent.

Stephanie Frappart made history on Wednesday by becoming the first female referee to take charge of a men’s Champions League game, while female referees have been employed in the Bundesliga and Ligue 1.

But two of the leading figures in promoting female officiating in the UK claim the domestic game will continue to pay the price for its initial reluctance to embrace the women’s game.

Stephanie Frappart

Stephanie Frappart made most history on Wednesday night (Mike Egerton/PA)

Janie Frampton, a former leading international referee and FIFA instructor who also served as the FA’s National Referee Manager for Education and Training, is damning of her former employers’ attitude to the issue.

“We have been behind in women’s refereeing in this country for so many years, and I’ll be blunt – a lot of the women who have succeeded did so despite a lack of support,” Frampton told the PA news agency.

“More than 10 years ago, people used to ask me when we’d see a top-flight female referee and I’d say, ’10 years’, but I don’t say it any more.

“We’ve got some really good structures in place but I still don’t think the FA are getting it right. And while female referees are seen more positively now, those guys spent too long seeing the light.”

Sian Massey was the first female official to feature in a Premier League match as an assistant in Sunderland’s game against Blackpool in 2010.

The 36-year-old Frappart officiated Juventus’ 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in Turin, handing out three yellow cards as Juve won comfortably with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his 750th career goal.

West Bromwich Albion v Brentford – Carabao Cup – Third Round – The Hawthorns

Sian Massey has been assistant referee in a number of Premier League games (Carl Recine/PA)

Frappart was already the first female referee for a major UEFA competition match when Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties in the Super Cup in Istanbul last year.

The chairman of the Referees’ Association, Paul Field, echoed Frampton’s concerns about the development of domestic women’s officials lagging behind other nations.

“Somebody like Stephanie is a true role model and it’s fantastic to see what she is doing,” said Field.

“But let’s face it, the evolution of the women’s game is this country is five or 10 years behind the rest of Europe.

“If we follow the same trajectory, it means we won’t get a female match official (in the Premier League) for another 10 years, because the whole thing has got to catch up.

“We’ve had some fantastic role models ourselves with the likes of Sian, Natalie Aspinall and Jane Simms who have officiated at a high level.

“But I can’t see many more coming up the promotion ladder. And I think this is all a direct consequence of the football authorities, 10 or 15 years ago, not taking the women’s game seriously at all.”

The PA news agency has contacted the FA for comment.