Having female referees at the World Cup sends a positive message about women’s rights in Qatar, says Stephanie Frappart, the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup game overseeing the 4- 2 of Germany in Costa Rica on Thursday.
The 38-year-old Frenchwoman became the first woman to referee the men’s World Cup, in Thursday’s group stage match between Costa Rica and Germany.
Frappart was joined by Brazilian assistant referees Noiza Pak and Mexican Karen Diaz Medina at Al Bayt Stadium, to form the first team of female referees in the history of the tournament.
Rwandan referees Salima Mukansanga and Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita have also been selected.
« We know there are challenges that women face, » Frappart said.
The Gulf state has been widely criticized for its ban on same-sex relations and its treatment of migrant workers.
Human rights group Amnesty International said women and LGBT people « continue to face discrimination in law and in practice ».
Prepared to handle the pressure
England women’s captain Leah Williamson has claimed she’s not ‘interested’ in watching the tournament, while team-mate Beth Mead has signaled it’s ‘disappointing’ that the World Cup is going to go away. takes place in Qatar.
Qatar demands respect for its values and traditions as a Muslim country, and claims to have introduced remarkable reforms in the field of workers’ rights.
Despite this, Frappart indicated that she could not turn down the opportunity to referee a match at the Men’s World Cup.
« When you’re selected for the World Cup, how can you say you’re not going? »
« The Men’s World Cup is the most important competition in the world, not just in football. »
« There’s always pressure in matches. And when a woman is there, there’s more pressure because it’s something new, » she said to mark her aspiration for the tournament.
« We know the pressure. But I think we won’t change, let’s be calm, focused. Don’t think about the media and everything and focus on the pitch, » the Frenchwoman advises her colleagues.
In total, there are 36 referees selected for the 2022 World Cup.
Mais Frappart knows from experience that she and her other colleagues are well equipped to handle the pressure.
« I’ve played a lot of high-value games, so with all that experience we’ll be game-ready, » she said.
Frappart was the first woman to referee a Ligue 1 match in 2019 and then, in 2020, a Men’s Champions League match.
She was also the first woman to referee the Coupe de France final this summer and broke new ground by refereeing the 2020 European Men’s Championship.
Today, moreover, there is a big campaign to see a female referee officiate in the Premier League.
When will there be a female referee in the Premier League?
The Premier League is still waiting to take a similar step. When will a woman be able to take charge of a men’s Premier League game in England?
The answer is soon, according to Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, who made the move to the Bundesliga and is now in charge of England’s elite female referees.
« I am absolutely certain that we will see a female referee in the Premier League at some point in the near future, » she told BBC Sport.
« The quality that emanates from female referees is absolutely breathtaking. »
« Now we have Rebecca Welch, Natalie Aspinall, Sian Massey-Ellis, Lisa Rashid breaking those glass ceilings and really pushing boundaries, » she added.
« They are recognized for their excellent performance on the playing field.
“I have never seen a group of officials so professional, so organized, so detailed in their preparation, their fitness goals, their nutrition.
« The professional behavior that we can see now throughout the environment, it’s absolutely overwhelming. »
« I don’t want positive discrimination »
Janie Frampton was one of the first female referees in men’s professional football in England and went on to train referees for FIFA for a decade.
She indicated that the selection of Frappart as a referee, rather than on the sidelines, is essential.
« I think it’s hugely important, » she told BBC Sport.
« My only concern was whether they were going to take the girls and only use them as a fourth referee? So it’s an absolutely fantastic moment. »
Asked how long it would take for a woman to take charge of a Premier League game, she replied ‘maybe five years’.
But like Steinhaus-Webb, she’s keen to make sure any promotion is done for the right reasons.
« I don’t want affirmative action, » she added.
« I don’t want women getting promoted through the middle of the Premier League just so they can tick a box. They have to be good enough, but we have girls coming in now who are maybe good enough. »
There are over 50 official women in the Premier League, Championship, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship.
Welch was one of 12 referees at Women’s Euro 2022, with Massey-Ellis and Rashid among the assistants.
But Ms Frampton believes too many female referees fail to reach the top of football due to problems at grassroots level.
“We have done much better, of course, but there is still a big gap between women and men, and for many different reasons,” she added.
“We need to make sure that women see this environment as welcoming to them,” she stressed.
“We have to try to eliminate some of the unconscious biases that still exist,” Frampton concluded.