For Whom the Whistle Blows

Nettleham LFC vs Wolves Women

Controversial refereeing is always in the news. From Maradona’s 1986 ‘hand of God’ goal to Sunday league scraps, in football there is no one that suffers more abuse than the referee.

A quick ‘football referee’ search online turns up plenty of headlines in the past week alone. Quotes from players and managers calling ‘corrupt refs’ out, referees charged with match-fixing, female referees suffering verbal abuse from the fans. Sometimes, there is no justification for the criticism, but sometimes the ref appears to be truly in the wrong.

This was definitely the case in Nettleham on Sunday. West Bromwich Albion Women paid Nettleham Ladies a visit at Mulsanne Park. From start to finish, it was a scrappy, physical game fraught with fouls. With the final kick of the game, the visitors took the lead with a much-disputed goal.

The referee led the Netts goalkeeper to believe the ball was hers after a West Brom striker went studs first into her stomach. However, when she put the ball on the floor, ready for the kick, the attacking team slipped in front of her and found the back of the goal while she was unprepared.

Katy vs Birmingham & WM

While the visitors celebrated their 2-1 win, the Netts called for the goal to be disallowed on the grounds that the referee was distracting the keeper. However, as the final whistle went, the hosts had to accept their defeat, feeling cheated after a game that they had dominated until injury time.

After the game, Nettleham LFC manager, Richard Cooper, said: “it’s a very, very cruel blow”.


This is a problem at every level of football, from hyper-local to international. There are over 3,000 referees worldwide with FIFA international status, and England Ladies manager, Phil Neville, is calling for a better standard of refereeing on the international stage. With the Women’s World Cup on the horizon and no VAR in sight, Neville fears that if the referees they have worked with so far indicate the level of expertise to come, they will hinder the growth and quality of the game.

“Maybe the standard of refereeing is my biggest concern going into the World Cup” ~ Phil Neville

Neville said: “Having VAR at the World Cup doesn’t worry me; the standard of refereeing does. If we want to make the women’s game the absolute top, we are asking a lot of the players and we’re putting them under immense pressure to challenge them and make them better professionals, that’s my biggest concern.” The Lioness’ World Cup journey continues on June 9, 2019.