We recently introduced yellow armbands for referees under the age of 18, which Emma is a supporter of: “It’s a good idea because it serves as a gentle reminder to others that you are protected in the safeguarding rules and still learning and growing on your refereeing journey so they should think before they make negative comments.
“It also gives them some time to reflect and realise that they should be supporting the individual and hopefully it encourages more young referees to register.”
It’s beyond just a hobby now for Emma. She’s always looking for ways to improve and has many people she looks up to in the game.
“At the start, I used to do it to stay in the game, help youth girls teams and earn some money. I used to get very nervous but now that I've got into it my confidence has grown, as it continues to each game, and now I look forward to the matches. Practice and consistency is key.
“I've just joined the Sussex RA-FA Youth Council, I think it's very good to have people with lots of different experiences at different levels, and ages in the group to represent all youth referees. I look up to all the other members and it’s always amazing to see what goals they’ve reached and how we can all progress.
“I saw that Taz was at the referee CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) the other week and it’s things like that which really inspire me to go as far as I can. Also, with the WSL just starting and them having all female officials, it motivates me even more, because I know that if they can do it what’s stopping me. However there’s still a long way to go in the women's’ game especially with the referees not being able to be full time .
“I think people like Rebecca Welch and Sian Massey-Ellis, who are officiating the men's game as well as the women’s, are amazing role models to show that we don't just have to go through the women's game, we can also progress in the men's game.”
Joining a Referee Association is a great step for young officials to take. But Emma didn’t stop there and was successful in applying for The FA Leadership Academy.
“Since I started refereeing, I wanted to take every experience that comes my way and FALA stood out to me as an unmissable opportunity. I saw it advertised and thought, ‘wow, this would be a great course to go on.’
“I decided to apply but didn't think I was going to get in so, when I got the acceptance reply, I was so excited about it. We had very special guests like Baroness Sue Campbell, David James and industry leaders in many different roles up and down the country.
“It was very good to hear how they got into football and what they did to get to where they are now. It’s important that people know that there are many different roles in football. Just because you're not a talented player doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in the sport at the highest level. There are endless other roles that you can do within the FA.
“They also spoke on the course about the importance of inclusivity and making everyone feel like they belong. There may be people at school/club that want to get involved in sport but they think they’re not very good at playing so can’t be. However they may be really good at other roles such as broadcasting, marketing, officiating or managing, so it's just letting everyone know there is a role for them in sport is essential”
She also spoke of her future goals, adding: “I'd love to just see how it goes and take every opportunity to get as far as I can. I think it’s crucial to actively seek out opportunities because I can’t progress if I don’t build up my network of contacts or look for the next big things to become a part of.
“I saw an interview Sussex FA did with Michelle Watkins. She said it would be good for the County FA to have an all-female officiating team on one of the county cups. I think that would be an amazing goal. It would be great for the girls to have role models that they can relate to covering the events and I would love to have a part in that.
“I think it's great to keep all of my options open. I'm just going to do as much as I can, in both the men's and the women's game. I think mainly, I'd want to go through the women's game and I don’t think that should be seen as any worse than the men’s game. I don’t want young girls going into officiating believing that the premier league is the end goal, the WSL is growing so much and having strong female role models controlling the games gives it even more elevation.
“I'd love to go into sports journalism. I think, going back to the women's game, it's such a current topic with how well they're improving and the exposure on TV that it would just be right the path for me.
“I'd like to work with other strong women to inspire more girls to take up leadership roles in sport. I think it's always good to have female role models in the men's game. But we need to progress so that referees don't have to go through the men's game just to be seen as a professional.”