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The Women's Sports Alliance


Stephanie Frappart – pioneering football referee – her career, in her words

“I hope it (breaking barriers) serves as an example to female referees and to any young girls who may aspire to be a referee,” Stephanie Frappart tells the WSA.

The French official has never shied away from making history, but she has also never deliberately targeted it. For her, she is simply doing her job, but in doing so, she has ‘broken down doors, smashed ceilings’ and transformed the landscape for women in football.

On the 22 November 2022 Frappart became the first woman to officiate a match at a men’s World Cup when she was named as the fourth official for Mexico vs Poland.

It was a role also she held in the Women’s European Championship final between England and Germany earlier this year.

Her wider honour-roll includes, becoming the first woman to:

· referee a men’s major European match, · referee a French League 1 match, · officiate a UEFA Champions League match, · referee a men’s World Cup qualifying match

The Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA) was granted rare access to the ground-breaking referee through Gatorade, who provided performance support to female officials ahead of and during the 2022 Women’s Euros.

Q - You were 13 when you officiated your first game, how did that journey into refereeing come about? “I played football at school, half of the time with the young guys, but also girls as well.

“My father was a player so we went with my mother to watch him on a Sunday and that’s how it (her interest) began.

“After I started playing I wanted to know the law of the games, so I began to go to the local department for referees and in France after two days of training you then go to the field!

“I was about 13 when I started refereeing 9-10-year-olds in clubs.”

Q – You enjoyed playing and refereeing so how difficult was the decision to stop playing and focus on refereeing?

“At university it became too much to play on Saturday, referee on Sunday and then study, so I decided to stop playing and only to referee.

“I was at a good level, but at this time women’s football was not as developed as it is now and also the closest high-level club was far away from home, so it needed more time from my parents to travel and put me in training.

“Also, when you arrive at 18, if you’re not in the big or first team as player I think it’s impossible to reach higher, so at this age I decided I was more focused and passionate about developing myself on the referee part in football in France.”

Q – In simple terms, what in your mind, makes a good referee?

“When you’ve played maybe it’s easier to be a referee and also when I was younger, I was calm and that helped me manage situations.

“It’s also key that you find something (in refereeing) that you enjoy, so for me it might be managing players, trying to let the player be the star.

“It’s quite different to playing yourself, but you’re still in the matches and you make the story of the game and I feel you can improve your personality by refereeing.”

Q – What would you say are the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced and overcome as a referee and also as a woman officiating in the men’s game too?

“I maybe only had one or two bad experiences about ‘oh you’re a woman’ but you never think about that because I have always been welcomed by players, teams and clubs.

“I started to referee men’s competitions and I was the only woman (official) and after that I went to women’s.

“I was always pushed by the referee committee and also when I arrived in the stadium no one looked at me like a woman, they looked at me as a referee.”

Q – The latest European Championships (in England) were seen as another ‘game-changing moment’ for the women’s game, but first, how much did the professional support from Gatorade help and other officials in the build up to the event?

“Gatorade held zoom seminars which helped us with all kinds of things, like sleeping and nutrition prepare us for the Women’s Euros.

“We all train physically, technically and tactically but the other bits of information they (Gatorade) gave us, as well as the feedback, was extremely helpful.

“Often you think about improving your fitness, or decision-making but there are also other areas, so those online meetings and physical workshops and during euros gave us great ideas about how we can improve at a high level.”

Q – Okay, so on to the Euros earlier this year. What were they like to be a part of and how much of a change did you witness compared to previous events?

“In 2010 there were less women as referees, but since the World Cup in Germany we increased the number of women who are referees and women’s football is much more developed since then.

“I was in the Netherlands (for the last Women’s Euros in 2017) and there was a big step up between that competition and this year’s competition.

“Players are faster, they are more like athletes, so we need to be the same as the players and our preparations were better which meant we went up a level too.”

Q - How exciting is it to be involved in the game right now? “Compared to Netherlands, that was the beginning of the development of women’s football but now in England it was a fantastic tournament, everyone was following, more TV and media, and people were looking for women’s football.

“Before they (fans) were only looking for the men’s (football games) but now there are fans for only women’s football.

“Also, when you have more players, you can have more coaches and more referees, so right now is a great time for the sport!”

Q – What was it like to officiate in the Women’s Euros final in front of a sell-out crowd?

“The end of the Euros in Wembley was just incredible and this atmosphere that was really amazing,” Frappart tells the WSA.

“Throughout the tournament most of the stadiums were full for the games so there was a big step forward for women’s football.

“I really feel that this tournament was one of the most important for women in (the history of) UEFA competition.”


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