A former Melton Times sports editor who became Leicestershire’s first female referee has been hailed as a trailblazer for women in football.
Anne Edwards qualified and received her referees certificate 47 years ago on December 13, 1972, but as a woman she was not allowed to take charge of games.
Yet her motivation to earn the certificate was not to take charge of matches, but rather to cement her position as sports reporter at the Melton Times where she would go on to become sports editor.
She said: “I was 20-years-old at the time and enjoyed reporting football games, but had to endure a lot of stick and banter – mainly about women not understanding the rules and knowing more about housework!
“Well, that was a red rag to a bull and when I told my editor he contacted the Leicestershire and Rutland County FA and signed me up for a referees course - which I passed first time.”
During the summer, Anne was presented with a special framed certificate to acknowledge her county first as well as a letter of thanks from past and present female referees.
Referee development officer, Natasha Wilson wrote: “You are the first female referee who has paved the way for further inspiring women to be involved in refereeing football, so on behalf of every single one of us, thank-you!”
Anne had contacted the county FA after this year’s Women’s World Cup games who were unaware of her qualification, and discovered it in the 1973/74 referees handbook.
There she is listed as the sole woman, under her maiden name, Miss Anne Hollingworth.
“I was so proud of the players and their fair play and conduct throughout the games, but more so of the female referees,” Anne added.
“They were imposing, controlled and fair. I was blown away and contacted the FA to find out if I had been lost forever in the mist of time, or was still in the dust of the archives.
“When I give talks I always show my referees’ certificate and talk about the qualification.”
Anne, who retired as editor of the Great Yarmouth Mercury newspaper 16 months ago, was recently presented with a framed certificate by the county FA.
“Natasha emailed to say she had found me in the 1973/74 handbook, and she and her team hadn’t known about me or my story
“I was absolutely thrilled to receive the framed certificate with the County FA’s pennant.”
* For more details about qualifying as a referee, call Natasha Wilson on 0116 2844953 or email firstname.lastname@example.org