English official Sian Massey-Ellis writes for TheFA.com on International Women's Day

As a regular at the highest level of English and international football, Sian Massey-Ellis is one of England's most high-profile officials. On International Women's Day 2021, she talks about her own experiences, feelings and hopes for the future...

Monday 08 Mar 2021
Sian Massey-Ellis has spoken about her thoughts on International Women's Day 2021

I first got involved in football just before I turned 14.

Originally, I wanted to do a paper round but I realised I was too lazy to get up in the mornings and my dad suggested I take a refereeing course instead.

I remember saying to my dad: ‘Can I do that?’

And I don't know whether that was because I was a girl or because I was just young.

I was really active as a child and my dad was a referee and ran a Sunday league club too so I was always involved in that environment - but his attitude towards me and football was always: ‘Of course you can’.

Sian is a regular assistant referee in the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup and UEFA competitions

Now, I always try to replicate the same sort of positive parenting with my own daughter, Harriet, and I want her to be able to think she can do anything she wants in life.

That’s what International Women’s Day means to me; showing girls and women all of the roles they can be involved in and showing my daughter that anything she can dream of is possible.

IWD also gives me the opportunity to talk to different people and encourage them to get involved in sport, which is very important to me.

I was lucky that my route into football was a natural one but for others, they might just need a push in the right direction sometimes. When I look back at my career in football it’s been more than just a job to me, it's helped shaped my personality, given me confidence, friends, my family - I owe a lot to football.

It’s also opened doors for me that I’d never have had the opportunity to walk through otherwise. I’ve travelled the world. I’ve been to Panama to referee a World Cup qualifier, Netherlands for a Europa League game, Canada, Japan - I’ve been very lucky in that respect.

Sian has penned her thoughts for TheFA.com on International Women's Day 2021

And I love my job. There are very few things in life that are as special as the magic of the Emirates FA Cup. That big-team-little-team feeling and the atmosphere it creates on matchday, it’s just...magical.

But the game isn't perfect that's for sure. Football has this incredible power to change lives but for me it doesn't do that often enough.

If you look at what Marcus Rashford has done over the last 12 months - it has been incredible and he deserves every bit of praise he gets for addressing child poverty. That's the sort of thing that should be built into the foundations and culture of football for me.

The inclusivity and diversity of football is something I personally feel very strongly about and we need more effective campaigns, like IWD, to reach people and try to make a difference.

Sian remains passionate about encouraging more girls to take up football and sport in general

When I look at the Barclays Women's FA Super League and see how much the profile has been raised, I think it's great because that is going to generate more much-needed female role models.

It's not just about being a player though, you don't have to kick the ball to be involved in the game. We've got medical staff, ground staff, coaches, technicians, referees of course, and so many more people involved in this sport - those are all opportunities for women to be involved in the sport if they want to.

It's not always that easy of course and if I could pass on one piece of advice to anyone that is struggling, or needs to hear this, it would be talk to someone. Having people that you trust, an inner circle if you like, and can talk to has been so important for me during my career. It does take a lot to bother me but it's about having that support network of people to help pick you up when you're down - it just helps, trust me.

First and foremost though, football needs to be accessible to all and that is going to be a big focus for me in terms of what I do next in the sport. I'm someone who likes to challenge myself and there's still plenty left for me to achieve in my career but it's not always about what you do on the pitch, is it?

In the end, I always come back to the idea that if you think you might like something, you just need to try it out - that's how I got involved in refereeing and now I'm addicted to it.

By Sian Massey-Ellis