This football season will bring many firsts; the first season of VAR in the Champions League and Premier League, the first all English European Super Cup. But with that last first comes a far more groundbreaking one, the first woman to officiate a major European final, Stephanie Frappart. The 35-year-old already referees men’s football in France, but this final is a major step not just for her, but for world football. So, what is Stephanie Frappart’s story, and what does this appointment mean for football?
Stephanie Frappart First Woman To Officiate A European Final
Stephanie Frappart: Career So Far
The final will not be the first time Frappart makes history; she is already the first woman to have refereed in Ligue 1. But, men’s football is not new ground for the French referee; she has been a referee in the Championnat National – the third tier of French football – since 2011, and the French Ligue 2 since 2014.
The biggest stage in her career thus far was her appointment as referee for the Women’s World Cup final this summer, after impressing earlier in the tournament. This stunning journey has only seen her stock rise. Now it seems only a matter of time before she makes a mark on the European stage, and allow for other female referees to follow suit.
The Perfect Advert for Women’s Football?
This appointment could end up being a masterstroke for two reasons; the first is that it could be a brilliant advert for Women’s Football. The near five million viewers who tuned in for the Women’s World Cup Final, a culmination of the growing sport, was just the beginning. More and more people are beginning to sit up and take notice. If someone like Frappart officiates the men’s game, controlling the final without a hitch, she could set a precedent for female officiates. Referees always have the possibility of being the centre of attention, mostly for the wrong reasons. Many managers and players have lambasted the quality of officiating in the Premier League in the past. This could be high time for women to break into the men’s game.
More importantly, though, is that this decision breaks down the societal barriers of modern football. Many cite the intense training and physical tests as a reason for the lack of female officiates in men’s football. If Frappart can breach the threshold, though, why can’t countless other women follow her example? Her integration in French football was seamless, now recognised as one of Ligue 2’s best referees. This season she finds herself in the pool of officials for Ligue 1, officiating some of the world’s best players. Frappart has even herself stated that, since she started officiating in the men’s league, she rarely felt disrespected on grounds of her gender. She could serve as a beacon of hope for women around the world whose passion for football.
How This Could Improve Officiating in Women’s Football
The role of women in men’s football is becoming a growing trend. Bibiana Steinhaus is another woman making her mark, as a referee in the Bundesliga. She has been involved with the German top flight since 2017.
Sian Massey-Ellis has also played a role in the men’s game. She has been an assistant referee in the Premier League for 11 years now, also officiating at the Women’s World Cup this summer.
With officiating in women’s football a target for criticism, due to the lack of full-time referees, this could be beneficial to its future. An increase in full-time referees will only be conducive to a higher-quality league. With better-trained officials, the disparity between men’s and women’s football could become ever finer.