As part of International Women’s Day being this week, we posed some questions to Norfolk-based referee, Tracey Clayton, about her experiences as a female in the grassroots game.
How did you get involved?
I enjoyed the game and played at University but not since. I gained my coaches qualification but wanted something more, and had noticed that when my son was playing, a lot of well-meaning club referees frustrated me so decided to do the course myself. I enjoy being involved because of the people that I meet at all levels of the game and on all sides of the game too.
As a female in the grassroots game have you ever had to overcome any barriers?
Yes - mainly the surprise in the early days of being a female in a male dominated game. I'm quite outgoing and have got a thick skin. Sometimes there are sexist comments, but I realise these are frustration at the person dressed in black that come out the wrong way (or in other instances behind your back so you can’t pinpoint who/which side said it). I stay true to myself and the game and do not make my sex matter - as long as I do the job I am asked to and not take any comments to heart then I am happy. And if there are barriers there are friends (referees and non-referees) who I discuss things with.
What else could we do at a local level to get more females involved in Norfolk Football?
It is difficult - you either love football, have a vague interest or no interest at all. We need to make football accessible to all and not just have females on Committees (which seems popular to do) but to give them active roles and let them lead on various matters Having the Lionesses at Carrow Road was amazing and that sends a great strong message to females.
What would be your advice to other females who may wish to take a step into the game?
Do it! Speak to other females involved at any level. Look at social media and how positive females are in football. Go to taster sessions, watch grassroots games, and see the buzz that there is.
What has been your highlight of being involved in Norfolk Football?
Got to be the infamous County Cup - Ladies Final at Carrow Road. A great team. A great game. Carrow Road. Hospitality. The audience attendance. The atmosphere. And the player wiping me out!
Did anyone inspire you to get involved in the game?
Yes - Ali McCoist - bet you didn't expect that answer! Went to see him play at Ibrox Park and thought he was fabulous so off I went to a University taster session and there you go, the rest is history!
Should you want to know more about female football in Norfolk, or want to get involved, please e-mail our Football Development Officer, Harry Diggens, on Harry.Diggens@NorfolkFA.com.