Woodley: No room for sexism in football
A top Bermuda female referee has called for sexism in football to be shown the red card after British TV presenter Andy Gray was sacked for making controversial comments about a woman official.
Wendy Woodley reckons the derogatory remarks made towards assistant referee Sian Massey before a televised English Premier League game last weekend by ex-Everton striker Gray and Sky Sports anchorman Richard Keys were well offside.
The 40-year-old said an official's gender made no difference to their ability to do the job, and admitted receiving sexist jibes from coaches, players and spectators at football grounds across the Island.
“Personally I think women get a lot of disrespect from players, fans and coaches (in Bermuda). I've heard some say ‘a woman's place is at home' which I agree with, but a woman's place can also be on the pitch,” she said. “Players think a female referee lacks the knowledge, confidence and skill.
“Sometimes you make a correct call and you still get flack because the players don't fully understand the rules.”
Ex-Scottish international Gray and Keys were both suspended from Sky's coverage of the Bolton v Chelsea game on Monday night for the remarks, made when the pair thought they were off-air. Gray was sacked the next day after inappropriate comments made towards another female presenter also came to light. Keys resigned from his position on Wednesday,
Woodley branded Gray and Keys' sexist rant as “disrespectful, demeaning and derogatory” and said their outdated opinions had no place in the modern game.
“I strongly felt that (Gray and Keys) had no confidence in (Massey) because she was female. Their comments were disrespectful, demeaning and derogatory. If a man can do the job why can't a woman?”
Sick of hearing sexist abuse levelled at her at local games, Woodley almost quit last season and took time off following a high profile incident which saw her abandon a game after an object was thrown onto the pitch.
Eventually she had a change of heart because she did not want to give in to those who devalued her ability simply because of her gender.
“At one point last season I thought it was time for me to pack it in. But then I thought ‘ you know what, I'm not going to give in because of the abuse,” said Woodley, who works at the Department of Court Services.
Yesterday Woodley revealed how Bermuda's former Premier, Dr Ewart Brown, inadvertently inspired her to become ‘a woman in the middle' eight years ago.
“I used to attend all my son's matches for Devonshire Cougars Under-13s and I remember them losing a game which was being refereed by the former Premier, Dr Brown,” she said. “The players were very upset and thought the referee was cheating. I had to sit my son down and explain to him that sometimes you may not agree with a referee's decision but you have to respect it. I then started to think that maybe I should pursue (refereeing), so I got involved and here I am today.”
Gregory Grimes, the chairman of the Bermuda Football Association's (BFA) referees' committee, said he was delighted Woodley had not thrown in the towel and praised her performances this season.
“Last year the BFA rested Wendy for the last part of the season and she's come back really strong.”
Cassandra Trott and Woodley are the only female football officials in Bermuda. And Woodley would love see more follow in their footsteps.
“To be a referee you have to have a thick skin and a passion for the game. I'd be happy to have more women onboard,” she said.