Women referees in team sports, a fight not yet won

Stephanie Frappart refereed her first Ligue 1 match at the Stade de la Licorne at the Amiens-Strasbourg meeting on April 28.
Stephanie Frappart refereed her first Ligue 1 match at the Stade de la Licorne at the Amiens-Strasbourg meeting on April 28. PASCAL ROSSIGNOL / REUTERS

It is the tree that hides the forest. In April, Stéphanie Frappart was the first woman to officiate in Ligue 1, the French men's football championship. She made the "one" of all media, her name was on everyone's lips. A step has been taken in the world of football.

However, we still remain far from parity in French football in arbitration: only 3% of women are referees in the ranks of the French Federation, according to figures dating from 2018. And only Stephanie Frappart is at highest level. His assistant, Manuela Nicolosi, officiates only in Ligue 2 when they are not in pairs.

It's hardly better off football. Because, if the feminization of the body of arbitration is widely desired – 93% of favorable opinions in France, according to a study presented at the days of arbitration organized by La Poste between 7 and 21 October – women remain a minority to officiate in most of the collective sports in the Hexagon. And even more minority when it comes to refereeing men.

Read also Stéphanie Frappart, the express ascent of a pioneer referee

If, in France, the round ball took off at the men at the end of the XIXe century, it was only recognized for women in the 1970s. This late development partly explains the low feminization of officials. "Arbitration goes hand in hand with the development of women's football and the results, both recent," says Pascal Garibian, the boss of the referees at the FFF. But it's hard to ignore the fact that "Football is a macho environment", says Julie Bonaventura, who refereed the Men's World Handball Championship in 2017. " This is one of the reasons why we see so few women in yellow. "

If there is, a priori, no glass ceiling for women wanting to arbitrate men, the tests required to practice are the same for both sexes, so physically harder for women. And, as in any profession, they must make more compromises than their male counterparts. "If there is only Stephanie today at this level, there is a reason, continues Pascal Garibian. It's not about having a positive discrimination policy. She arrived there by her work and her skill. "

Read also Bibiana Steinhaus becomes the first female referee in a major European championship
  • Football and rugby, same fight

The round ball is not the only dunce. Rugby has the same score, with only 3% of women referees. Christine Hanizet was the first to officiate in Pro D2 from 2015 to 2017. Today, there are none. "One of the undeniable reasons is that rugby is a virile sport of contact, considered as reserved for men, like football," Does advance. She who stopped in 2017, too old to continue, assures that she has never had any problems with either the players or the breeders. "It was in the governing bodies and not in the field that I felt that I was not wanted in this place. "

In 2007, Rene Hourquet, president of the central commission of arbitration, pronounces a sentence which arrives in the ears of Christine Hanizet by the person in charge of the sector Midi-Pyrenees while it is question of making it to rise to the higher level: "As long as I'm here, the women will not get any higher than Federal 2." If that did not prevent her from climbing the ladder, Christine Hanizet is not about to forget this exit. Especially since René Hourquet was not the only one to put a spoke in the wheels.

When her last season in Pro D2 comes, she counts the matches before the end of her career. " Officials at the federation told me that they could not call me because "you understand, the end-of-season games are important" ", She recalls. The former official pauses, as in memory of the shock experienced. "In the federation everyone was not ready to see a woman at this level," She regrets.

Two years later, the situation has not changed much. No woman took the whistle in Top 14. "When I pointed at the end of my nose, the federation thought that the problem had to be solved, She says. So far, there is nothing concrete. "

  • A little more assured presence in handball and basketball

The place of women referees is a little more assured for the collective sports of room, where the feminine practice is also a little less imbalanced. Laure Coanus, 24, has for example refereed her first men's elite basketball game on Saturday October 12 in Pau, after having passed one by one the territorial ladder. "I had a lot of pressure, She says. I was with a referee of Euroleague, that put me in confidence. Everything went well. I made some mistakes, but I did not let myself walk on it. " A player even came to congratulate her at the end of the match.

With 20% of female referees in the ranks of the Federation, like handball, and three women officiating in the men's first division, basketball is one of the good students in terms of parity. And also atmosphere: "Once in my career, I heard sexist insults, recalls Laure Coanus. We are protected in this sport because we are more numerous and more visible. "

Same tone handball side. Twin sisters Julie and Charlotte Bonaventura regularly referee men. They never had to complain about inappropriate thoughts. "We heard" go home, go do the dishes "in small rooms, but it was rare, says Julie Bonnaventura. Once we got to a gym and we were told that the girls game was not here. We explained that we came for the men's match: the people were surprised, but it was not bad. "

Where the situation of Stephanie Frappart, in football, is exceptional, the benefits of the family duo in men's games are so common that no one pays attention. Especially not them: "It's natural for us," says Julie.

  • The course of international competitions

Where the rub is the refereeing by women of international meetings in men. In football, officiating at the European Super Cup in August, between Chelsea and Liverpool, Stephanie Frappart made a first.

The two Bonaventura sisters will referee the European Men's Championship in early 2020 (January 10-26 in Austria, Norway, Sweden), having already officiated at the Men's World Cup in 2017. "We are beginning to be known. It's back in the mores ", Julie smiles.

On the basketball side, however, if Chantal Julien refereed men at Euro 2005 and the Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing, there are more French women today in international men's competitions. As for rugby … it should already take the pace of the Top 14.

Read also Football: French Stephanie Frappart to referee European Supercup (men's)


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