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Patsy Andrews, a female referee from Leicester, writes during Black History Month

Patsy Andrews is a Level 6 referee from Leicester, who provides her account of how and why she began as an official and what she takes out of it for herself, her family and community...

Monday 26 Oct 2020
Patsy is a regular referee or assistant referee in the Leicestershire area

I am a Black woman, a mother and grandmother of African-Caribbean heritage.

Each of these I have to reflect on, as every time I’m on the pitch I am representing these aspects of my life and community so I need to do it with self-respect and pride.

And more importantly, I will never let my mum down as she was proud of what I had achieved and taught me the importance of self-respect and valuing our history by never forgetting what we went through and where we came from. I take this into every aspect of my work and personal life. 

I took up refereeing after I was put in a position where people made clear to me that they felt refereeing was just for dads. At that point, I realised as a Black woman it was time to step up and ensure that my children and their friends had a balanced and more diverse group of refs. As a mum, I was always at my children’s football games so was not happy to be told that my role was less than that of a father. 

So I first qualified to referee over 14 years ago now as I realised that it was needed – a Black woman refereeing in a world where our children play. In my view they deserved to see people who reflected their families and have someone who treated them like they were valued.

Being an official ensures that we are reflected in a positive light and can show people we can do anything we put our minds to no matter what others think

I referee because I’m a role model for people to see and hopefully, I can inspire them to take it up and encourage their children or just come to more games. I'm now a Level 6 ref and have achieved the goal I set and happy that the players who I ref each week respect me. 

I'll never say I am good, as anyone will have bad days, but I enjoy refereeing and as I’ve always told my children, nieces and nephews – if you try your hardest, then that’s ok. 

So when players cuss, moan, have a tantrum or whatever else they set their mind to when confronted by a women, a Black woman at that, I remind them that at least I’m trying and nobody is perfect, not even them.

I referee most weekends in the season, both on Saturday and Sundays as well as midweek if needed and I’ve refereed in numerous tournaments all over England and also went to Minnesota in the USA a few years ago to do the same.

As well as that, I was on the list to ref in New York - as I used to travel there regularly and have been offered games in Antigua when I visit.

I should also mention that I took part in the Special Olympics when it came to Leicester in 2009, an amazing event and wow, I learnt so much about me, refereeing and the beauty of football for people with needs. That led me to take part in so many inclusive torments after that.

There's been some challenges along the way, with other referees, people within refereeing and the support back in the day. However, these seem to be getting better for the newer refs and hopefully that continues.

A positive for me has been in Leicester, when I was so proud to have me, my son and older nephew as referees in the final, with Akil in the middle and me and my nephew on the line. My whole family turned out to watch this match and the players and managers were so proud of all of us.

I've refereed in England and abroad in the USA and Caribbean

It was the pinnacle of my career and I know it showed people in my city that we, as Black people, can achieve anything we want to achieve and enjoy it in the process. 

So my advice to others is to look if your children are interested in it and then you should be. And as Black people, we need to be in this world at every level, we have every right to be here and we can and do make a difference.

We should never make this about us as individuals, but always remember it is a community or village that raises children, so as a community we need to be working together to show our children what we can achieve.

When I go to a game and the players refer to me as mummy or aunty, and ask for me to ref them again, that tells me that they respect me and what I symbolise.

I’m not there for the politics, I have enough politics in my full-time work, I’m there to ensure that we are reflected in a positive light and can show people we can do anything we put our minds to no matter what others think, feel or how they behave.

I learnt years ago to know which battles are worth your energy and which are a deflection – stay strong and focused is my motto.

By Patsy Andrews Grassroots referee