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Lucy Clark speaks about her first term as English football's first transgender ref

February is LGBT History Month and Wembley Stadium hosted the Just A Ball Game #StrongerTogether conference on Tuesday 5 February. One of the guest speakers was Lucy Clark, who became English football's first transgender referee at the start of the 2018-19 season. Here, she tells her story and how the campaign has gone so far...

Monday 04 Feb 2019
Lucy has taken charge of over 50 games in the 2018-19 season so far

Football has been my saviour.

The game has always been my outlet throughout life. As a child, a teenager and an adult, my life always revolved around football, whether I was a player, a manager or a referee.

But my plan was to give up football this season, as I didn’t think I’d be able to referee as my true self.

It was only because my family and close friends told me that if I didn’t have football in my life, I’d have nothing and they really pushed me towards continuing.

From there, I spoke to Funke Awoderu at the FA to get the ball rolling and now, I wish I’d told the football world years ago.

It’s been my first season as the real me, Lucy, and it’s gone well. It’s been really good and positive.

I’ve refereed around 50 games since my news broke last summer, and considering some of the grounds that I’m going to are places I’d been going to for years as the person I actually wasn’t, everyone has been really, really good.

There’s been the odd time that people have got my gender wrong and things like that, but I can understand that and I’m not someone who will be precious about it as no-one has done it maliciously.

I’ve had the odd situation where when I’m standing at the front before a game waiting for the players to come out and I’ve heard a few whispers and noticed a few people wanting to have a look.

But once the game is on, there have been no issues from any of the fans, managers or players apart from the normal stuff that you get as a referee which I’ve had for the last 20 years.

I’ve refereed the majority of my games in the Combined Counties League as well as games in the Ryman development league, the Combined Counties U18s league, the Women’s National League and the London & South East League.

And there’s been one standout moment which I will always remember, which came in a Combined Counties game when I was speaking to one of the players when his captain said something to him. He shouted back to the captain: ‘Well, he’s talking to me…’

I'm looking forward to speaking at Wembley at the Just A Ball Game conference


The captain turned around and replied: ‘It’s not a he, it’s a she,’ which I thought was really great, as when I’m refereeing, I’m not in full make-up or anything like that.

The player then replied to that with: ‘He? She? I don’t really care, it’s the ref.’

And I thought that really hit the nail on the head, because at the end of the day I am just a referee and someone who loves football as much as everyone on the pitch.

Back when I was a player, I would always do club magazines and things like that before the days of the internet.

Then I went into coaching and was a manager running multiple sides, going back over 30 years ago when I set up a team called Sutton Celtic and then I ran AFC Beddington before moving to Essex and running Risden Wood and AFC Risden, which actually led to me getting a job at Stansted in the Essex Senior League.

But it never really happened for me there, after taking charge of a few reserve team games, I was meant to be moving up to the first team but by then I’d moved back down to Surrey so it never really progressed from there.

I’ve always enjoyed refereeing though and at one point I was the referee secretary for five different leagues. I enjoyed it so much and started to progress as a referee, that I just continued along that pathway.

Since my news came out last August, I’ve had a referee from up north who touched base with me and said that he’d hidden as well when refereeing, but I’d given him the inspiration to now referee as herself, which was great.

There’s also been quite a lot of other people in the community that have contacted me after they heard my story, so it’s been good in that way too, that it’s inspired them to be true to themselves in their workplace or their sport.

And I’m honoured to have spoken and told people my story at the Just A Ball Game #StrongerTogether Conference at Wembley.

I’m happy to do anything that’s positive which shows transgender people in a positive light, particularly around football.

Has Lucy's story inspired you to get into football? Why not take your first steps to becoming a referee? 

By Lucy Clark Transgender referee