On Saturday, Twitter user Hullablue took his young daughter a semi-pro soccer game near the English city of Leeds where his daughter was ecstatic to discover that one of the assistant referees was a woman. Hullablue was able to get a great photo of his daughter and the female ref in the middle of a conversation during an injury break. Hullablue posted the photo to Twitter with “Daughter was delighted to see this assistant referee today ‘her hair is like mine, can I be a referee?'”
The post quickly went viral, receiving over 5,000 retweets and 23,000 likes.
Daughter was delighted to see this assistant referee today "her hair is like mine, can I be a referee? " – pic taken during one of the many injury breaks @TheGarforthTown @WomeninFootball @NCEL . pic.twitter.com/e87UvbxTEL
— Hullablue (@hullablue) October 14, 2017
The post has received overwhelmingly positive responses on social media, including a shoutout from Garforth Town AFC, one of the teams playing in that game.
That's such a brilliant photo.
— Garforth Town AFC (@TheGarforthTown) October 14, 2017
Several groups used the opportunity to encourage girls, including Hullablue’s daughter, to become referees.
This photo is already both inspiring and heartwarming but it really makes an impact if you know just how rare female referees are. In America’s four big sports – football, baseball, basketball, hockey – there have been a total of six full-time female referees. Eve. The MLB hired Bernice Gera to be its first full-time female ump over 40 years ago after she sued the league and it has not had another woman ump since. The NFL hired Sarah Thomas to be its first, and so far only female referee back in 2015. Women are given more opportunity to officiate in the MLS and other pro soccer leagues, but they are still vastly underrepresented.
While women struggle to be taken seriously as referees on a professional level, female refs are becoming more common in youth sports, which could be the first stepping stone towards female refs no longer being seen as a rarity. Until then, we can at least take some solace in little moments like a young girl being inspired by a female ref officiating her favorite semi-pro soccer team.