Sat 12 December 2020 | 10:30

Greatest Female Football Referees in the World

Perhaps it is still strange for many to see a female referee in the middle of the football field. But every day, women progress and flourish in this football. Therefore, we want to introduce you to the greatest female football referees in the world.

Gender discrimination is rooted in all aspects of society. So football is no exception to this rule. The path that a female referee must take to progress and become famous in the patriarchal world of football is much more difficult and challenging. The history of women's football dates back to the past decades. Women's football, with all its ups and downs, has managed to gain good popularity among the people to this day, despite the significant difference between the spectators of women's games. But the fact is, exactly from the heart of these difficulties now we have the greatest female football referees in the world.

The point to consider is whether, with the dramatic growth of women's soccer around the world, female referees have achieved the success they deserve or not. The first positive step in the flourishing and advancement of the world of female referees was taken by FIFA. In 1994, FIFA took the unique step of electing the first four female assistant referees in the world. These women were included in the universal list. In 1995, FIFA followed this up with some significant changes for women referees and assistant referees, by introducing FIFA’s first-ever list of women referees just in time for the Women’s World Cup in Sweden. 

Women’s football matches including the world’s footballers are limited and as the matter of fact, the majority of women’s matches are of a lower standard than those played by men. This is where the role of national football federations comes into play. If women's football moves a little further away from the gender aspect and more attention is paid to improving its quality, the progress of female referees will increase and it will be easier to overcome the challenge.

Best Female Football Referees around the world

Considering the importance of women's football in the world, in this article, we will introduce you to

the greatest female football referees in the world


Stéphanie Frappart

If you're a real football fan, you've probably heard of Stéphanie Frappart. The one on our list of the greatest female football referees in the world is the first female referee in the history of the Champions League. It was a big shock for the world when the European Football Association announced that the referee of the match between



Dynamo Kyiv

on 2 December 2020, on the second night of the fifth week of the group stage of the

Champions League

is a woman. A pleasant shock that promised good days.

Stéphanie Frappart was born on 14 December 1983 in Herblay-Sur-Seine, France. She has been on the FIFA International Referees List since 2009 and since 2011 she is the referee of matches in the Championnat National, the third division of men's football in France. In 2014, Frappart became the first woman to referee in Ligue 2, the second tier of professional men's football in France. She also worked as a referee at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada.

she was also included in FIFA's referees' list in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. Following her professional success, in April 2019, it was officiated that she would become the first female referee in Ligue 1, she made her job debut on 28 April 2019 in a game between SC Amiens and RC Strasbourg. Stéphanie Frappart is the first woman to officiate in a major men's European match as she was appointed to referee the 2019 UEFA Super Cup between




On 2 August 2019.

Bibiana Steinhaus

Bibiana Steinhaus was born on  24 March 1979 in Bad Lauterberg, West Germany. Bibiana started her passion for football as a footballer for SV Bad Lauterberg and then she preferred to follow her father's profession and became a referee. , Having taken professional courses since the age of 15, Steinhaus became a referee for the club SV Bad Lauterberg and began in the Frauen-Bundesliga after receiving DFB certification in 1999.

In 2007 she began refereeing in the men's 2. Bundesliga and established her name as the first female referee in German men's professional football. She was also selected for the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, UEFA Women's Euro 2009, 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. She was also selected as the arbiter of the 2017 UEFA Women's Champions League Final between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain in Cardiff on 12 May 2017.

Proving herself as a real talented referee, one week after UEFA final match, she was raised by the DFB to officiate in the top-level Bundesliga and so named the first female referee in the league's history. in 2018 she was selected as the female referee of the year by DFB. As mentioned before, Bibiana is one of the

women referees in men's football

, but it is not at all an easy task. She was the victim of abuse and controversial incidents on several occasions.

Once, she had a physical confrontation with

Bayern Munich

manager Pep Guardiola as she was serving as the fourth official in a 2014 match. Once again she had an unintentional groping of her breast by a player in 2010. Usually, men's players don't like to receive a notice from a female referee let alone receiving a card. Bibiana once gave

Fortuna Düsseldorf

's Kerem Demirbay his second yellow card and he in return made a sexist comment towards Steinhaus. Consequently, the club suspended him for five matches. It isn't at all easy to name one of the best female soccer referees in the world, but Bibiana is indeed a talented one. To everyone's surprise, she is also a trained police officer with the rank of Chief Inspector.

Rita Gani

Our third

greatest female football referees in the world

is the one who made her country as proud as ever.  Rita Gani was born on 11 May 1977 in Sabah, Malaysia. She began officiating in 2004 and in just two years, she was added to the FIFA international list of referees in 2006. Right after officiating six matches in the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup in Vietnam including the semi-final between Australia and South Korea, she named AFC Woman Referee of the Year in 2014.

This Malaysian association football referee has also officiated in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada alongside her countrywomen, Widiya Shamsuri.  Widiya Shamsuri and Rita are both, the former Royal Malaysia Police force, two great referees that cGreatest Female Football Refereesreated history by making it to the World Cup.

Rita believed that her achievements are due to the motivation and support from various people. she had said: "I must thank the Kuala Lumpur Football Association (KLFA), Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and Police for supporting me and providing me the opportunities to officiate locally and internationally,"

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Sian Massey-Ellis

Do you still doubt the easiness of women referees in men's football? the background of Sian Massey-Ellis would make you one hundred percent sure. She was born on 5 October 1985 in Coventry, England. She is generally an assistant referee in the premier league and the Football League. With several years of working as a professional assistant in Football League Trophy, UEFA Women's Champions League, FIFA Women's World Cup qualification rounds, the FIFA Women's World Cup, and the UEFA Europa League, she is considered an experienced referee. But her path was not an easy one. 

Massey-Ellis -who is a Member of the Order of the British Empire- had gone through a rough time in her professional life. The story began on 22 January 2011 in a game between Liverpool and

Wolverhampton Wanderers

. the

Premier League

broadcaster Sky Sports made some comments on Massey-Ellis. His unprofessional act made the commentator Andy Gray and presenter Richard Keys fired. Following that scandal, PGMOB withdrew her from her next appointment, believing that the added attention Massey might receive, would distract her from the match and her perfromance.

The above problem was not her only difficulty as one of the

best female football referees around the world.

Once, Sian was the lineswoman of the match between

Manchester City



. In the 41st minute of that match- in which Manchester City’s 1-0 win against Arsenal- Sergio Aguero put his hand on Sian Massey-Ellis' shoulder. It didn't last more than a second but it was followed by a huge reaction. The social media blasted. Videos of the incident went viral. It was indeed unprofessional and patronizing. Besides the disgraceful act of Aguero, the reaction of Pep Guardiola raised many more questions regarding the positions of women referees. after that match he had said:  "I didn't speak to Sergio about this but I'm pretty sure if she felt bad he'll apologize without a problem. "

Amy Fearn

The next name on our list of the

greatest female football referees in the world

is the first woman to referee in The Football League. She was born on 20 November 1977 in Loughborough, England.  As a teenage girl, she had a dream to become a footballer, she wanted to play football with her brother. But as the matter of fact, there weren't enough facilities for a girl having the dream of football. Following her unwanted failure, as her father wanted to become a referee she decided to pursue her father. A shortcut to enter the football world.

She qualified just after her 14th birthday but as she was under 16, she could only referee those at the under-12 level. Two years passed and she was qualified to officiate in the Midland Football Alliance. In 2005 she was included in the FIFA assistants' list and after five years, on 9 February 2010, she became the first woman to take full control of a Football League match as the match referee and later on In 2013, she became the first woman to referee an FA Cup Game in the Main Draw.

Amy Fearn just like Massey-Ellis was the victim of verbal abuse. In November 2006, the manager of

Luton Town

-Mike Newell -made sexist comments about Fearn, who was the assistant in their game against

Queens Park Rangers

. Following the official's decision not to award Luton a penalty, Mike Newell got angry and said: "She shouldn't be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?" Newell later apologized to her and was fined £6,500 and given a warning by his club. The obstacles of women referees in men's football would never end. 

Wendy Toms

Our sixth

greatest female football referees in the world i

s Wendy Toms who is the first female ever who officiated at the Premier League and football league.  Wendy was born on 16 October 1962 in Dorset, England. She began her refereeing career in the late 1980s and in 1991 she became the fourth referee. Her debut match was between




in the old Third Division. at that time it was completely bizarre to see a female referee in a match.

Gradually, she went through all the steps of progress and achieved successes that for a woman at that time may have seemed even unimaginable. Like all female referees, there were problems and obstacles for her, but she went through all of them and registered her name on the list of

top women's football referees around the world.


On 27 February 2000, She was assigned as an assistant for the Football League Cup Final between

Leicester City

and Tranmere at Wembley, which was her highest domestic achievement. She was also the referee of the UEFA Women's Cup quarter-final first leg on 30 October 2003 between Brøndby IF of Denmark and Gomrukçu Baku of Azerbaijan and at the 2005 UEFA Women's Championship, she officiated the match between France and Italy on 6 June. 

Claudia Umpiérrez

Let's move on to our seventh greatest female football referees in the world, Claudia Umpiérrez who is the niece of former famous Uruguayan international Rubén Umpiérrez. Claudia Inés Umpiérrez Rodríguez was born 6 January 1983 in Pan de Azúcar, Uruguay. She was born into a football family, that her father is a coach, her maternal grandfather was a referee, and her uncle was a professional player. 

She was 16 that her aunt encouraged her to enroll in referee courses. Despite her keen interest as she was 16, she had to wait until her 18th birthday. As she turned 18 she enrolled in the classes, regardless of her father's disagreement. her father didn't like her daughter to be a referee, that he knew the world of football. 

Having passed the required courses, at the end of 2009, she was approved as a FIFA international referee and was promoted from the third to the second category by the Referees' Association of Uruguay with the highest score of all her colleagues, both men, and women. 

Claudia Umpiérrez soon established herself as one of the

best female soccer referees in the world

. On 29 September 2015, she officiated two professional men's teams for the first time.  Her highest achievement was 4 September 2016, when she was appointed as the central referee of an Uruguayan First Division match between

River Plate


Boston River

. Following that year she was voted for the second consecutive year by the IFFHS as one of the best referees in the world, this time ranked 11th. Claudia besides her referee career is active as a lawyer. 

Kateryna Monzul

Kateryna Volodymyrivna Monzul from Ukrain is our eighth greatest female football referees in the world. She was born on 5 July 1981 in Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union.  She continued her superior education along with her passion for football. She has a degree in architecture and town planning from Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy. 

After officiating in some national matches, her international debut was in September 2005, in a match between Finland and Poland in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers. With her focus and talent, she soon achieved more success. she has officiated at UEFA Women's Euro 2009, the 2013 UEFA Women's Euro, and the 2014 UEFA Women's Champions League Final. After that final match, she was elected second in the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) World's Best Woman Referee poll behind Bibiana Steinhaus- the second on our list of greatest female football referees in the world. 

She was also known as the main part of the first all-female refereeing team to officiate at senior men's international, that in November 2020, she officiated the UEFA Nations League match between

San Marino



Jawahir Roble

Our ninth greatest female football referees in the world may surprise everyone the most. Jawahir Roble is also known as Jawahir Jewels or JJ was born in 1995 in Somalia, but she grew up in north-west London with her parents and eight siblings, her family arrived in the UK as a refugee from Somalia when she was just 10 years old. 

Since her childhood, she has had a passion for football and played soccer with the boys, which her parents were not at all happy with it. They believed it was men's play. She dreamt of playing for the Lionesses, but destiny led her to be the UK's first female Muslim referee. 

But Jawahir pursued her interest and dream, regardless of her religious background and family opposition. Now she has FA qualifications and a degree in coaching and her goal is to inspire and encourage young girls from the BAME-Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic - community to take part in football sessions to follow their dreams. 

As she started her career as a referee she once said to Sky Sports News "she feels like she is entering a man's world and is showing them who is boss."  with all her efforts and courage, considering her obstacles as a Muslim girl, she is indeed one of the top women's football referees around the world.

The names we have listed as the greatest female football referees in the world are not just names. These powerful inspiring women are the role models and heroines for all young girls who are still doubtful to enter this fearful world. Every young girl can enter the world of football with more enthusiasm by reading their biographies. Undoubtedly, in the near future, we would witness the success and presence of more and more female referees in the professional level of world football.

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