8 March marked the start of International Women’s Week. As part of the campaign, we want to showcase the stories of women contributing to making grassroots football the best it can be in London.
Today, we are talking to Level 7 referee Charlotte Dukes, who referees in Clapham Women's Saturday Football League, The Super 5 League and The Hackney Marshes Saturday League. She shares her story on how she became a referee and her experiences.
What led you to become a referee and what do you enjoy about refereeing?
When I moved to London after university, I knew I wanted to get immersed in the footballing community. I joined the Victoria Park Vixens FC, an East London grassroots team, but I also wanted to challenge myself and try out refereeing. For me, this was a means to get further involved in women’s football, as well as taking a stride into an area that was still relatively underrepresented by women.
After I qualified as a Level 7 referee, I reached out to Goal Diggers FC who kindly let me referee some of their pre-season friendly fixtures in 2019 and the rest is history. I genuinely believe the open and friendly nature of the Goal Diggers fixtures allowed me to build my confidence as a referee as those first fixtures can be intimidating for someone trying to apply the Laws of the Game for the first time. I enjoy a lot of elements of refereeing including the direct beneficial impact it has had on my assertiveness and decision-making skills, something which I leverage at work on the trading floor. It has allowed me to see a completely new side of the beautiful game and I get to meet lots of new teams and volunteers doing great work in football across London.
Have you faced any challenges in being a female referee? If so, how have you overcome these challenges?
To an extent yes, but it goes back to the notion that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and if there is not a sense of familiarity around women officiating then they are more likely to be considered as ‘other’. It is why I would love to see more girls and women coming up through the system because it normalises that women are just as capable as officiating as their male counterparts.
Do you have any role models, anyone you look up to in the refereeing community?
Overall, the representation of women officials in the WSL has improved substantially and we now have household names like Sian Massey-Ellis and Rebecca Walsh who are leading the charge at the highest level. It is important to have that visibility and I have no doubt it will feed down to a grassroots level in time.
What do you think could be done to encourage more females to become involved in refereeing?
Having visible role models is certainly a good place to start and being able to connect up senior female referees with younger up-and-coming referees in a meaningful way such as through mentorship schemes. It is important that having women in officiating roles is not considered a ‘fad’ or a ‘trend’ by organisations rather, that it is understood as a fundamental change that is needed in the game to ensure all players and officials feel represented.
What advice would you give to a girl or woman who would like to become a referee?
Give it a go, back yourself and you'll learn more about football and yourself than you ever thought possible. Also if you ever need someone to touch base with, I'm only an email away!
If you would like to find out how to get into refereeing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.