Female referee milestones – in men’s top football

female referee milestones

What are the female referee milestones? That is the subject of this article.

Edith Klinger from Austria is considered to be the first female referee in the world to officiate both men’s and women’s matches. She was active from 1935 to 1938 – also as founder of the 1. Damen-Fußball-Club Kolossal in Wien. (More about Edith Klinger at Ballesterer and Playing Pasts, including literature note.)

The development of female referees only took off in the 1960s. The first female referees were Asaléa “Léa” de Campos Fornero Medina (*1944 oder 1945, Brazil) and Drahşan Arda (*1940er, Turkey) who both completed their referee training in 1967.

They were followed by:

  • 1969: Sabine Asgodom (*1953), Germany
  • 1970: Gloria Ramírez (*1953), Guatemala
  • 1975: Munira Ramadan (*??)
  • 1976: Wendy Toms (*1962), England
  • 1978: Sonia Denoncourt (*1964), Canada
  • 1978: Ghislaine Peron-Labbé (*1961), France
There are certainly still many female referees missing here. To complete the female referee milestones, I am grateful for supplements of female referees who completed their training in the 1960s and 1970s or even before.
It is constantly updated – current status: 20 March 2021. Additions are always welcome per e-mail.

In men’s football

Not every one of them, however, was appointed to men’s football. And in top men’s football, only Ghislaine Peron-Labbé, Wendy Toms and Munira Ramadan were appointed. At that time, as is well known, there were even more misjudgements by men than today about what women could achieve and improve in the sport.

For the sake of clarity, the following overview is limited only to women referees officiating in men’s continental football competitions and the national 1st leagues.

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This overview is regularly supplemented and updated. The status here is therefore not set in stone, but reflects my current state of research. I therefore recommend not to use the form “The first female referee was …” but “The first female referee known so far was …”.

Dates from Tonga are missing. Since women’s football is not of a high standard there, it has been taken for granted for many years that referees of any gender officiate matches in men’s football. It is possible that many a milestone from Tonga is still missing from the overview.

Female referee milestones – The history and development of female referees in men’s football

Vor 1996 – Bernadettar Kwimbira, Malawi
First female match official and assistant referee in a men’s 1st division in the world – and in CAF, namely the Malawian Super League.

27 August 1997 – Wendy Toms, England
First female match official and assistant referee in a UEFA men’s 1st division, namely the Premier League.

29 August 1998 – Sandra Hunt und Nancy Lay, USA
First female referee in a men’s 1st division in the world and CONCACAF, namely MLS.

5 June 1999 – Nelly Viennot, France
First female match official and assistant referee in a UEFA men’s continental league tournament, namely the UEFA European Championship Qualification.

30 May 1999 – Nicole Petignat, Switzerland
First female referee in a UEFA men’s 1st division, namely the Swiss Super League.

24 August 2000 – Nelly Viennot, France
First female match official and assistant referee in a UEFA continental men’s club tournament, namely the UEFA Cup Qualification (UEFA Europa League).

23 June 2003 – Silvia Regina de Oliveira & Ana Paula Oliveira & Aline Lopes Lambert, Brazil
First female match officials in Brazil and CONMEBOL, also the first match in the world in a men’s 1st division to be officiated by three women, in Serie A.

1 October 2003 – Silvia Regina de Oliveira, Brasilien
First female match official in a club competition in CONMEBOL men’s football, namely the Copa Sudamericana.

(unknown date) 2004 – Bola Abidoye, Nigeria
First female referee in a men’s 1st division in CAF, namely the Nigeria Professional Football League.

14 October 2007 – Sarah Ho, Australia
First female assistant referee in a men’s 1st division in AFC, namely the A League.

3 August 2014 – Maria Rebello, India
Fist female referee in a men’s 1st Division in AFC, namely the I League.

14 May 2019 – Yoshimi Yamashita & Naomi Teshirogi & Makoto Bozono, Japan
First female referee and assistant referees in a continental men’s football club competition in AFC, namely the AFC Cup.

2 September 2019 – Ilisapeti Malekamu, Tonga
First female referee in a continental men’s football international competition in OFC, namely the OFC Confed Cup.

13 November 2019 – Lidwine Pelagie Rakotozafinoro, Madagascar
First female assistant referee in a continental men’s football international competition in CAF, namely the Africa Cup of Nations Qualification.

6 September 2020 – Stéphanie Frappart, France
First female referee in a continental men’s football international competition in UEFA, namely the Nations League.

23 January 2004 – Lidya Tafesse Abebe, Ethiopia
First female referee in a continental men’s football international competition in CAF, namely the African Nations Championship.

7 February 2021 – Edina Battista Alves, Brazil & Mariana de Almeida, Argentinia & Neuza Back, Brazil
First female referee and assistant referees in men’s football club competition in FIFA, namely the Club World Cup.

24 March 2021 – Karen Díaz Medina & Francia González, Mexico
First female match officials and assistant referees in men’s football FIFA competition, namely the World Cup Qualification.

27 March 2021 – Stéphanie Frappart, France
First female referee in men’s football FIFA competition, namely the World Cup Qualification.

10 April 2021 – Akhona Makalima, South Africa
First female match official in a continental men’s football club competition in CAF, namely the Champions League.