iCanRef: Jane Simms
So Jane, tell us about how and why you got involved in Refereeing?
I started Refereeing 16 years ago, aged 29. There were no clubs I could play at when I was younger and as my Dad was a Referee, I thought it would be a good way to be involved in the game I love. I was rubbish at playing anyway! I did my first 3 games at Huddersfield Town Academy working with two other newly qualified Referees – we had a mentor with us to support and guide us and I also had my Dad there supporting me. I did my course in Brighouse. The format was very different to what it is now. We attended for 10 consecutive midweek evenings and had two exams during this time, one after 4 weeks and then an oral exam on the 10th week which was quite daunting. The course is much better now as its virtually all practical and you learn to apply the LAWS during the course whereas I only started doing that on official games. After my three games at Huddersfield I was officially qualified and started to Referee in the Halifax Saturday and Sunday League and run the line in The West Yorkshire County Amateur League to more senior and experienced Referees, whom I learned from.
What do you enjoy about Refereeing?
I Referee because I love that feeling at 3pm when you walk out on the field of play and are part of the game I love. I have made so many good friends in football and its great to share that experience with them. I really love working as part of a team, we work hard mentally and physically together for 90 minutes and we do it together and for the game.
What are your greatest achievements in Refereeing and why?
This is a tough on to answer as there have been so many highlights for me. I have been involved in The FA Cup three times, once as the Referee in 2013 and twice as an Assistant Referee, the last time being part of the first all-female team to officiate a Cup Final at Wembley in 2015, that was a huge honour. I was involved with international football from 2009 and appointed to the FIFA list as an Assistant Referee in 2012. I have been involved in some big games abroad. Ones that stand out for me are a Champions League Quarter Final 2nd leg, France v Brazil & Germany v Brazil. I did pinch myself that I was on the same pitch as some of the world’s best players at the time.
What is your best memory of Refereeing?
Again, another tough one to answer as there have been so many moments as ‘best’ memories. The three FA Cup Finals stand out as you work hard throughout a season in the hope you have performed well enough to be appointed to these prestigious appointments. I was also very fortunate to spend 2 weeks in Japan on an exchange with The Japanese FA. At the time Women’s football wasn’t professional in England whereas in Japan it was. Japan had won the FIFA Women’s World Cup the Summer before so the football and set up was a good standard. It was a challenge in the heat, and I had to adapt my game as they didn’t speak any English so it taught me to use my body language more in game and I became more aware of how I was perceived. I took this experience into my international games – everyone of those a ‘best’ memory as you are sharing the moments with your closet colleagues and friends.
What are your goals in the sport?
I’ve just retired from men’s football, where I was involved in the Conference North as a Level 2B, to concentrate purely on the Women’s game – I will be a Referee or 4th Official in The Women’s Super League this season, Level 1W.
It terms of my goals and what I wish to achieve, I guess I just want to be the best I can be in every game; looking to continually improve but what I will enjoy most is working with my colleagues and hopefully supporting their development as well this season.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in the game?
Injuries have plagued me the last two seasons, one of the reasons why I have chosen to concentrate on Women’s only football rather than doing both. I think one of the biggest challenges being a female is being as fit as your male counterparts, if anything, you need to be fitter to stand out. It takes discipline and tough mental strength to keep pushing yourself physically, but the rewards are worth it. Yes, I’ve had some abuse in the past, but it’s mainly come from the side-lines. I’ve never taken it personally; I’m just doing my job as best I can. If I deal with it either during the game or report it post-match then I’ve done my job correctly.
Who’s had the biggest influence in your Refereeing career and why?
The biggest influence has undoubtedly been my Dad, it was following in his footsteps that took me into Refereeing and I’m forever grateful he advised me to do so. I have been continually supported by the Referees Department at County FA along with The FA as well as my fellow colleagues. There is great friendship & camaraderie amongst Referees, especially within West Riding and everyone supports and encourages each other.
What advice would you give to females wishing to get involved in Refereeing?
Just do it! You won’t regret it. There is so much support and everyone will help, support and guide you. Work hard and the rewards are there. It’s a world I wasn’t aware existed when I first started running round with my whistle in Halifax, never did I think I would achieve what I have and I like to think I’ve made my family proud.
Could you follow in Jane's footsteps? Check out West Riding FA's upcoming courses and start your Refereeing journey.