Casey Reibelt wants women and girls to push the envelope in refereeing

With Female Football Week 2022 underway, we continue to celebrate the game changers and barrier breakers of the women's game.

Referee Casey Reibelt is one of those champions, being just the second woman to ever referee a men's A-League match after Kate Jacewicz, but she hopes for the day when this isn't considered a history-making moment and rather, the norm.

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It took 15 years for a woman referee to be appointed to an A-League Men's match when Jacewicz took charge of Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets in January of 2020 and now, over two years later, Reibelt hopes to be the second in a long line.

"I’m really proud that both Kate and I have been given the opportunity," Reibelt, who has refereed in the A-League Women's since 2008, said. 

Terry Antonis of the Wanderers is shown a yellow card by Referee Casey Reibelt during the A-League Mens match between Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers at HBF Park, on April 30, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

"The next step is most certainly to be seeing both referees and assistant referees featuring week in and week out in the A-League Men's (ALM). If referees are being given opportunities at that level, and are performing, then they should continue to be given those opportunities regardless of gender.  

"For me, this is where the real change in culture and in our game is, not only to have the courage to appoint female match officials but to continue to back them over a sustained period," she elaborated.

Reibelt, who took up refereeing as a 15-year-old explained that growing up through the system, she's seen a lot of change, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that girls and women see refereeing as a viable career path, where they will be respected as decision-makers.

"My experience has probably been similar to other female match officials, in that I have had a real mix of both positive and negative. Most of us at some point have been on the receiving end of abuse from spectators, coaches or players based on gender," the long-time FIFA listed referee shared.

"On the other hand, I've had good support along the way, such as having the opportunity to referee in the NPL men's competition.  

referee Casey Reibelt during the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 group E match between The Netherlands and Cameroon at Stade du Hainaut on June 15, 2019 in Valenciennes, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

"In terms of what is changing, I think that there are more people now willing to call out poor behaviour (both men and women).  As the visibility of women in the game, whether it's playing, coaching, refereeing, administration or media continues to increase, and they have a voice that is valued, this will have a flow-on effect throughout all levels of the game."

Refereeing is a tough gig, regardless of gender, but as a woman, it's made even more difficult by lack of access and the reality that the role has historically been undertaken by men which has created the mindset that it is a man's job.

In terms of what we can do as a football community to ensure the success of women in football, Reibelt says it's about giving women and girls an equal, safe and supportive space to flourish.

"I think continuing to identify and remove the barriers that exist in discouraging women and girls from following these pathways is first," Reibelt said.

"Things like ensuring uniforms are correct sizes, access to female changing rooms at clubs, access to quality coaching and resources, and opportunities to progress. As well as that, ensuring that no matter who you are, the environment is welcoming and supportive, free from abuse or harassment.

 NOVEMBER 14: Referee Casey Reibelt gestures during the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay 2018 group C match between USA and Cameroon at Estadio Profesor Alberto Suppici on November 14, 2018 in Colonia, Uruguay. (Photo by Buda Mendes - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

"When people feel accepted, valued and like they belong, they will want to come back."

Reibelt has one piece of advice for girls and women wanting to pursue refereeing and that's to keep pushing the envelope and step outside of their comfort zones because it's the women who have done so in the past, that have created change for future generations.

"Keep persisting and challenging yourself. The best opportunities and experiences in life come when you choose the difficult road, rather than the easy one. Refereeing can be full of difficult experiences and challenges, but also really rewarding ones," she explained.

"I'm really proud of what I've achieved so far.  It's really exciting to be a part of positive change in the game.

"The more role models we have, the more normalised women refereeing will become. Young girls will feel that it is an option for them.

"I hope that some of our younger women referees want to become involved in the male youth and senior state competitions and that they have the courage and belief to make it part of their goals."

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