Fresh faced, female referee, Ella Broad from Westbury in Wiltshire, started refereeing at just 14 years old and has already been official for over 150 games of football.
We hear from Ella at a time where female football is in the limelight, with the Lionesses taking on USA in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup 2019 in France.
Ella said “I have always enjoyed football and I am passionate about promoting female involvement in the game.
“I reached a good standard as a player, when I was 10 years old I started playing for Wiltshire Advanced Coaching Centre (ACC). My best memory is winning the All Cities Elite Shield (ACES) National Tournament in 2015 playing for Frome Town Youth. The ACES Tournament invites the best teams from around the country to compete so it was a huge achievement becoming one of the national champions.
When I was 14 I decided to try refereeing. Initially I saw it as a hobby and as a way to earn some extra money doing something that I enjoy, but now it has developed to be much more than that, it is shaping my career.”
Over the past two seasons Ella has received awards for refereeing, including Best Level 8 Referee, Best Junior Referee, Referee of the Year and for two consecutive years Ella has been awarded the FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Award in the category of Best Grassroots Match Official of the Year.
Ella has recently started her level 7-5 promotion and after passing an assessment she has been invited to join the FA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE), a programme that offers quality training, education and development opportunities for referees.
Oliver Selfe, CEO at Wiltshire FA said “We are very proud of Ella’s story. She is just 16 and has been identified as having clear potential to progress in refereeing.
“There has never been a better time for female referee’s with The FA’s strategy for women’s and girls’ football aiming to double participation, including in the work-force. This growth is essential to reflect the games true appeal for all.
“Ella joins 1,500 qualified female referees who have already picked up the whistle and her story will help to raise the profile of refereeing. We hope it encourages people to consider joining the men and women in the middle, who are vital to the game.”
Refereeing offers both career opportunities and life skills. There is a clear development pathway and plenty of opportunities at local, national and international level.
The FA is aiming to recruit more female referees as part of the National Refereeing Strategy, which recognises the future of refereeing, and football, relies on ensuring opportunities are available to those people who show potential.
Ella comments, “Refereeing has had a hugely positive impact on my life; I have learnt transferrable skills that will help me forever.
“I know it could sound daunting to be a referee, you have to be assertive as you manage the pitch and you have to confidently make decisions, but as long as you are approachable, fair and calm it is not a bad role. There is nothing more rewarding than being thanked and praised by players and managers at the end of a match knowing that you have made the game possible and fair for both sides. That makes me feel very proud.
“I would highly recommend refereeing; it’s opened doors for me, on and off the pitch. I get job satisfaction, there are fantastic progression opportunities and the people I have met have supported me and inspired me; I have made friendships for life.”
Ella plans to continue projecting through the higher levels of refereeing and aims to continue refereeing alongside her education and subsequently her career.
Ella continues, “I would like to see more females joining the football workforce. I know that there have been significant steps to increasing female participation in football however there is still room to improve. We have to make sure the momentum continues and we create more opportunities for women and girls throughout the game.”
As well as The FA’s aim to double the player base and fan following of female football by 2020, the BBC have also recently launched the successful Change the Game Campaign, to air more women’s sport than ever before, which has seen television figures reaching record levels for women’s games on terrestrial television.
Ella concludes, “We are starting to see a positive change in women’s football as it becomes more main stream with growing funds and increased skill levels. My hope is the next generation don’t see football as a male sport; they will have a different experience. They will have grown up watching high profile men’s and women’s teams on TV, they will have football role models, both male and female and they will have been supported by both male and female referees and coaches. We are starting a movement in the sport and I hope we are inspiring people to believe football is not just for boys.”
Find out more about becoming a referee
Find out more about Women's and Girls' Football in Wiltshire