Talking Soccer: The first female referee in Bundesliga leads the way

Referee Bibiana Steinhaus, left, speaks to a player during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Hertha BSC Berlin and SV Werder Bremen in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Bibiana Steinhaus became the first female referee in German soccer league, Bundesliga, on Sunday, when she officiated the draw between Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin.

It’s a big deal, and it’s an important step in soccer to have equality.

Steinhaus became a referee in 1999, just like her father. She started her career as an official for MTV Engelbostel-Schulenburg and then moved to the women’s soccer league in Germany in 2001.

In 2007, she became the first female referee in the second division of German soccer and the first female referee in professional men’s soccer in her country.

When she stepped onto that pitch last Sunday, she became only the second woman to officiate a men’s soccer game.

Steinhaus’ achievement is important because men’s soccer is more visible and popular. So when a little girl sat that weekend in front of her television or went to the stadium, she saw someone like her being a part of something important.

It’s important because it helps to break down the myth that women aren’t part of the male sport sphere.

It’s important because there will be others that will follow in her footsteps and help make soccer the diverse community that it claims to be.

In 2014, FIFA did a survey to explore female participation in the sport. Around the world there are close to 76,458 female referees distributed in the five confederations that make up FIFA.

63 percent of the female referees are located in two countries: The United States and Canada.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) follows behind with 21 percent and the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) has 12 percent, while the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Oceania Football Confederation and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) account for only four percent of the female referees combined.

But in the United States and Canada, female referees account for 28 percent of their total referees.

In Steinhaus’ confederation, UEFA, only 4 percent of the referees are female.

Globally, we are really far away from getting more women to participate in soccer. Half of the world is being forgotten and ignored.

In the NFL, Sarah Thomas became the first female official in 2015. She was also the first to officiate a BIG 10 game and was assigned to a college bowl game in 2009.

The NBA has two active female referees: Violet Palmer and Lauren Holtkamp. They are two of only three female NBA officials in history.

Baseball has no women at all.

It might seem small and for many, it may not bear importance that a woman made it to this position. However, this one referee might be the one opening doors for future women to decide to take this career path. 


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.