If Barbados is serious about elevating females in football, then more should be done to target young women who are passionate and have a desire to go far in the sport.
That is the view expressed by Barbados and FIFA accredited assistant referee Tonia Deane who wants to see avenues created locally for the development of the women’s game.
Deane who had the distinction to officiate earlier this year at the Women’s Olympic Qualifiers in the United States said: “I honestly believe that if we are serious about female referees and pushing the female aspect of football, whether it be refereeing, administration, whatever the case may be, we need to start looking for younger females who are hungry to referee, to play, to administrate, to manage. If we do that I am sure we would be able to find females who really want to do this.
“I believe if we push this side of football, the feminine aspect, we would be able to get a lot of people that are interested and we would be able to see more Barbadian female referees doing great things on the international circuit.”
She added: “This is one of the things that we need and the only way to do that is if we find them and groom them. Encourage them and show them what they can expect as an international referee.”
During a telephone interview with Barbados TODAY, Deane said she believes females should aspire to be the next Gillian Martindale or the next Beverley Grant, two former outstanding referees.
Pointing to the fact Barbados has a limited number of female referees, Deane said she wanted to see females given the opportunity where they could aspire to be just like her and other outstanding female referees. She noted that the solution to creating such an environment was to set up a committee primarily for female referees.
“Female football is all I see. I’m not interested in men’s (football) because I am a female and I know there are opportunities out there. I believe that every female who would like to participate should at least be given the opportunity.
“One of the things I believe we can do is set up a committee specifically for female referees. When you have the Beverley Grants and the Gillian Martindales and even myself because I am not going to be refereeing for much longer, and I know there may be others that I may not be able to think of them off the top of my head, but I believe they can form a nucleus of women referee committees and basically have females mentoring females. Females aspiring to be like the Gillian Martindale, the Beverly Grants, the Tonia Deanes, who are referees or former referees,” she explained.
While it may be okay to say Barbados had Trevor Taylor, Mark ‘Bob’ Forde and Adrian Skeete on the FIFA list, they are all men. Therefore, Deane is calling for the women to have their own role model who they look up too.
“…What do the women have? Give them something to aspire to, give them people to aspire to, give them a role model that they can say, Gillian Martindale, I heard so much about you, I want to be just like you. So, if we can probably have a female-only committee or management team, we can use that as a tool to help draw women to the refereeing aspect.
“Really and truly how many female referees do we have in Barbados in general? Not many. How many female referees that we have that are plastered on our football association website where other females around football can see? Who do they have to emulate so to speak? So, perhaps if we had that, it would give females a little more encouragement to want to come forward and know more about the game. Even possibly become referees,” she maintained.
A journey that began in the early 2000s, Deane recounted how she had been pushed to become a centre referee when she first started. Officiating several matches in division one and two, she said one area which she was unfortunate not to have was guidance, maybe except for when Victor Moore or Sherlock Wall came out and watched her in action.
Eventually, she put down her whistle and put on a pair of football boots because that was when she opted to play women’s football in 2005. Among the list of teams she plied her trade for were the National Sports Council programme, Barbados Women Football Academy, Genesis, University of the West Indies Blackbirds and Empire Club.
It was a decision that also led her to other countries as she went on to represent Barbados’ senior national team at a centre-back up until 2014 when the national side failed to qualify for the women’s World Cup in Canada.
A year later in 2015, Deane returned to the field once again, this time in the capacity as an assistant referee. At that time of her return, Barbados already had on the FIFA list former outstanding centre referees Gillian Martindale and Trevor Taylor. So Deane decided that it didn’t make sense to become a centre referee when she can be an assistant.
Now with a need for Barbadian referees to join the FIFA list, the 41-year-old Deane said she would not switch at this stage of her career because of her age but saw potential in the likes of Khadijah Mars to take over the reigns.