Sarah Ho leading the way for female match officials

Friday, 16 November 2012 4:13 PM

Sarah Ho leading the way for female match officials

The sight of Westfield W-League assistant referee Sarah Ho on the sidelines at a Hyundai A-League game is a familiar one nowadays, and she hopes the same will be said for plenty more women in the future.

Ho will officiate in her first Hyundai A-League game of the season in Sunday's clash between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix, more than five years on from her first appearance in the competition.

The 34-year-old became the first woman selected for the league's referees panel in 2007, and has since split her time between the elite men's and women's competitions.

With fellow assistant referee Allyson Flynn also taking part in Hyundai A-League games last season as well as examples in other sports - such as Chelsea Roffey umpiring in this year's AFL grand final - the involvement of female match officials at the top level is on the rise. And after training alongside her male colleagues at the revamped pre-season referees' training seminar in August, trailblazer Ho says women are getting the exact same training and opportunities as men.

"In New South Wales we follow the same program as men and our training is the same," she says. "I think it really benefits us and gives us an extra edge.

"The new pre-season national training program has been so beneficial to all the officials and it's really raised the bar in terms of fitness for all referees."

Ho believes a new arrangement to provide the same communications equipment used in the Hyundai A-League for referees in the Westfield W-League will also help female match officials and improve the standard of refereeing.

The Sydney-sider started refereeing in her local NSW district, Nepean, and her love for it and hard work led to her becoming a FIFA assistant referee in 2004. She has since gone on to referee at two Olympic Games and two FIFA Women's World Cups and is targeting a third in Canada in 2015.

In the meantime, she's thrilled to continue in the domestic leagues as both the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League continue to grow.

"It's a fantastic experience," Ho says.

"There's a lot of training involved but it's all worth it and there's a lot of opportunities for upcoming referees.

"Being an assistant referee is a great way to get involved in the game."

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