Referee Profile | Morag Pirie, Scotland

Meet Morag Pirie, Scotland’s highest qualified female referee! Here she tells us why she’s climbing a mountain to break a football world record and not at home “making her man’s tea”!

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I grew up in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish countryside. I played football with my twin sister in our garden, and with the boys in the playground, but we were the only girls. There were no girls allowed on the school team, but when I got to Aberdeen University, I joined the women’s football team. From that point, football was everything, and I took a course in refereeing in my final year at University and began refereeing when I graduated.

When I started off refereeing, my sister would come to games as moral support, and she would often be asked by managers if I knew what I was doing, or had ever played football before. I’m sure that if I was a boy, it would be assumed that I knew the game, but as a young female, I had to prove myself before I even set foot on the pitch!

I used to have a part time job at a local joiners’ firm. Again, I was the only female employee. And again, there were so many times when I had to prove that I was capable of being there and that I knew what I was doing, and that I was strong enough to do the job.

Whilst I played football nationally in the first division, I have managed to progress way further as a referee than I ever imagined possible. I am now in the top level of FIFA referees internationally, which has allowed me to travel the world, officiating world cup matches, youth Olympic matches and champions league games in countries far and wide; games that were I still playing, I could only ever have watched on TV. Domestically, I have been an assistant and a referee at SFL games, Highland League games, and been at great stadiums with capacity crowds, TV cameras and the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. The atmosphere is electric.

There are so many challenges we face as female referees. The money that I receive as a referee in women’s football is a fraction of the money that referees get in men’s football. I constantly have to prove myself an equal to the men on the pitch. I have to prove that I know the laws of the game more than men just because I am a female, but once I am on the field, they soon realise that I know what I am doing and my gender isn’t an issue. I am shouted at because I am a referee and not because I am female. My twin sister is really supportive but says that she couldn’t do what I do with all the abuse I get and with the people I deal with during a game.

At home, “making her man’s tea” was how one manager described what I should be doing though I’ve only had a couple such incidents. It still exists that people in Britain think that football is a “man’s game” and that women shouldn’t be there, but thankfully, attitudes are changing. There are still some dinosaurs out there though who are stuck in the dark ages.

I am taking part in this challenge, to help promote the everyday issues and hurdles that females have at home and abroad and to try and bridge the gap between genders. I would really hope that in the future women and men receive the same respect for what they do, and have equal opportunities and facilities regardless of their gender. Our cause it to open up the eyes of people who still have the attitude that women can’t or shouldn’t do the things that men can.

I have thought so many times of giving up refereeing! I have then thought — why let them win? If I dig deep, stay determined and keep working away, then I will prove wrong all those who thought I couldn’t do it or wasn’t good enough.

I hope that by taking part in this challenge, it will show other females that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and try your very best. Nothing can stop you.

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