IF match officials ever find themselves at the centre of attention it is normally a sign that they have had a bad game.
But that certainly wasn’t the case when a trio of female officials made refereeing history.
For the first time since the Wessex League formed in 1986, a match was overseen by a teamof three female officials – and they were all teenagers.
Referee Lucy May, 19, was helped by her assistants Hollie Moisey, 17, and Shelby Davis, 16.
It was also the first time that such a thing had ever happened in any senior level match held in Hampshire.
Blackfield & Langley Reserves v Christchurch Reserves in the Wessex Combination Cup at Gang Warily was the landmark game.
Bearing in mind the significance of the game last Wednesday, the three officials already knew that this match was going to be slightly different to those that had gone before in their fledgling careers.
And that was confirmed when they arrived at ground to be greeted by a reporter and a photographer who were there not so much to for the game but their performances.
On top of that, there were extra eyes in the small crowd also there to watch history being made.
“The last time I saw this many Wessex League officials in one place was at the AGM,” laughed Waterlooville-based Lucy, who qualified as a referee five years ago and is in her third year as a Wessex official.
Understandably, there were also some pre-match butterflies floating about the referee’s room.
“I was slightly nervous before,”
admitted Durley-based Hollie, who is in her first year on theWessex League, at full-time.
“There was a big build up and there seemed to be a little bit more pressure.”
Shelby, from Chandlers Ford, who has been a qualified official for just 18 months and is also in her first year in the Wessex League, added: “I was a little bit more nervous as well.”
Despite that, they were all determined to treat the game the same as any other.
“We will go out on to the field of play as if it is any other game,” said Hollie defiantly.
And with that message Lucy led her team out to signal the start of the game.
Other than their routine duties and making note of Christchurch’s 42nd minute opener, there was little to trouble the three officials in the first half.
And aside from a potential flashpoint between two opposing players which was expertly handled with individual talking-tos by Lucy, the pattern continued in the second half with Christchurch sealing a 2-0 win late on.
At full-time the officials departed to handshakes and congratulations from all the players, many who had never played in a game refereed by a female let alone officiated by an all-girl team.
“It went really well,” smiled Lucy. “For all the players to come up to us at the end and come to the changing rooms and say ‘thanks’ and ‘you did well’ and some even say ‘can we have you for every game’ makes you feel good.
“It’s good that there are now enough girl officials to do something like tonight and pleasing to do a good job.”
“We made history,” beamed Hollie, who decided to go on a referees course after receiving negative comments about not being qualified when she ran the line for her local club Durley.
“It was a really good experience.
It was good to be able to put in a good showing in front of everybody because we have always wanted to do it (three female officials take charge of one game) since Shelby joined the league.”
Shelby said: “It was a really good game and good to get the thanks from the players and coaches.”
All three officials felt that if it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly were it not for the co-operation of the players.
“The players accepted our decisions and never really disagreed with us,” Shelby said.
Lucy added: “I like matches where the teams want to play football and the management want a decent game. There was none of the niggly stuff.
“From our point of view it is easier to referee like that.
“It’s when they want punchups and mass brawls that games get difficult.”
There was mixed opinion from both teams at full-time about whether their behaviour changed in the presence of female officials.
The three officials, though, didn’t think it did.
“I feel we get the same respect and don’t get treated any differently.
I don’t think it’s the players we have to conquer but the people behind the scenes in football and the spectators,” Lucy suggested.
“The players’ reactions to the decisions were natural and would have been the same if we were male,” Hollie offered.
The last word, though, goes to the night’s team leader Lucy, a confident and ambitious official with high hopes of being a FIFA referee in four or five years time.
She believes occasions like this night prove to any critics that there is more than enough space for female officials in the game.
“There are a lot of doubters, you are always going to have them,” she accepted.
“We are a minority in a male dominated sport and it is games like tonight that can prove the doubters wrong. And when you come off with a smile on your face and both teams congratulating you it’s a good feeling.
“It’s like sticking two fingers up to the people who say you can’t do it.”