By Jason Pettigrove

Football. It’s a man’s game, right? Or so the saying goes.

Yet the continued rise of women’s football – still the fastest growing team sport in the world – threatens to shift the balance of power. The girls are coming and best everyone gets used to it.

It’s no good having the dinosaurs in the boardrooms of the old boys’ network brushing aside the claims of their female counterparts. FIFA and the like must truly embrace the credentials of the various women’s associations throughout the world.

Can we really be living in 2015 when a computer games manufacturer is lambasted for having women’s teams within its signature game?

We are slap bang in the middle of the Women’s World Cup and women officials are continuing to earn praise. A performance from referee Anna-Marie Keighley at the tournament was described by You Are The Ref’s Keith Hackett as “outstanding”.

Hackett quantified his remark by saying that he had “never seen a better performance from a female referee than this”.

Given that standards are obviously improving, is it really still too outrageous to be talking in terms of having female referees at least at Football League level – if not higher?

Surely in this day and age it’s time to look at the attributes that an official brings to the party rather than perceived “other” issues.

Arguably, PGMOL could do with a few extra pairs of hands, given their present staff shortages, so the question has to be asked as to why wouldn’t they, or associate organisations elsewhere, call upon the services of any competent person to fulfill their requirements?

The decision making of Sian Massey-Ellis was good enough for Howard Webb and PGMOL five years ago, and football hasn’t moved on drastically since then.

Former Premier League striker Brian Deane noted on YATR’s weekly Ref Show that he would be in favour of the progression of female referee assistants to referees, however his one caveat was the issue of mentality and whether a female would be able to cope in such an intimidating environment.

It’s still important to note his positivity in discussing the subject, though.

Keith Hackett went even further by suggesting that England “are behind the times” because the Bundesliga and Italian leagues have already broken the stigma by allowing female refs to officiate in some of their biggest games.

He cited the claims of Massey-Ellis and Wendy Toms noting: “In the past [they] were knocking on the door and perhaps deserved the opportunity to have a run out in the Football League.”

If, as expected, the Women’s World Cup is a hugely successful tournament, then it brings into focus the attributes of female officials once more.

The time for those at the sharp end to get their heads together and find a workable solution to the inevitable and allow female referees into the men’s game has come.

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