The FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship enter into a new era of officiating this year. For the first time, both league’s referees and assistants will be part of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the same group which oversees officiating for all Premier League, English Football League and Football Association Competitions. Prior to this match officials in the women’s game fell under the umbrella of the FA.
When the announcement was first made last spring Kelly Simmons, director of the women’s professional game, stated: “This is a major step for our match officials in their development and I’m confident that PGMOL have the right infrastructure to provide them with the necessary support to ensure they continue to develop, and deliver at the highest standard within the professional game.
“The women’s game has moved on significantly over the last few years and we must ensure that our referees are provided the right environment to move with it. We have a highly dedicated and passionate pool of officials, and the time is now right that their development opportunities align with that of the men’s professional game.”
The PGMOL made a further step today in their new commitment to the women’s game by appointing German referee Bibiana Steinhaus as the new and first women’s select group director of the PGMOL.
Steinhaus has extensive officiating experience. Since her international debut in 2005, she has been named women’s referee of the year on no less than seven occasions. A police officer when not in the centre, Steinhaus officiated at three Women’s Euros and three Women’s World Cups.
In the men’s game she became the first woman to officiate a Bundesliga match, going on to be the person in the centre for 22 other Bundesliga games. Steinhaus announced her retirement from officiating last year after having refereed the German DFL Supercup.
Upon her appointment, director Simmons stated “Bibiana’s appointment marks an important milestone in women’s football. She has been a trailblazer throughout her career and is renowned for her professionalism and expertise which will no doubt benefit our match officials. This is a key appointment in our ambition to develop the best women’s leagues in the world.”
PGMOL managing director Mike Riley said: “We are delighted that Bibiana is joining PGMOL as women’s select group director. Her credentials speak for themselves, she is hugely respected in both the women’s and men’s game and I’m sure she will prove to be an excellent asset to us as we move to further professionalise officiating in the WSL and Women’s Championship.”
This is a welcome addition to both the FA WSL and the FA Women’s Championship. Having officials that match the rising level of professionalism of the women’s football is integral to its further development. With her impressive background Bibiana Steinhaus is more than qualified to lead the way in this new era of English refereeing.