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Milne's High pupil Megan McKay is Moray and Banff Referees' latest female recruit and she is encouraging others to take the Scottish Football Association whistlers' introductory course

By Craig Christie

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FEMALE football referees shouldn’t be treated any differently from their male counterparts, says Moray schoolgirl whistler Megan McKay.

Fochabers schoolgirl Megan McKay passed the introductory refereeing course last year and is encouraging others to give it a try. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Fochabers schoolgirl Megan McKay passed the introductory refereeing course last year and is encouraging others to give it a try. Picture: Becky Saunderson

Last year the 17-year-old Milne’s High pupil passed an introductory course run by her local Moray and Banff Referees’ group during the first Covid-19 lockdown period.

Megan, a keen athlete who also loves playing hockey and football, was encouraged by her dad Gordon to try the course, which was run online via the Zoom video conferencing platform.

She has since officiated in a few matches and can’t wait to do more once football returns to the field at grassroots level.

Now Moray and Banff are preparing to do another introductory course, and Megan is encouraging any refereeing hopefuls – male or female – to give it a try.

“I was 16 when I completed the course and since then I have refereed five or six games before we went back into lockdown,” she said.

“We did meetings every week and when we were ready, sat the online exam to qualify.

“Anyone who is thinking of doing the course should give it a go. It’s fun, gets you out of your comfort zone and you get lots of support.

“All the referees that I train with have been very encouraging and all new referees get a mentor for support at games and offer advice to improve your performance.”

Women’s football reached a peak in popularity when the world cup was screened live in 2019, and more females are becoming involved in the sport’s media as a result.

As far as female referees are concerned, Morag Pirie hit the headlines nearly 20 years ago when she became the first woman to referee a senior men’s match, the Highland League game between Huntly and Wick Academy in 2003.

In more recent times, Lorraine Watson was the first to referee an SPFL game at Edinburgh City in 2017, having run the line at a Rangers league game at Ibrox previously.

Specialised assistant referee Kylie Cockburn was the first to officiate at a top-tier Scottish game, the Premier League match between Hearts and St Mirren in 2014. She went on to run the line in three matches at the women’s world cup in 2019.

“It is widely known that football is a male dominated sport and when I turn up to games I do get a few odd looks,” said Megan.

“I think when I turn up and show that I am capable of refereeing a match it makes people think and question stereotypes.

“All the players and coaches that I have been involved with have been happy with my performance which shows that female referees are just as capable.

“The biggest problem is that a lot of people see the men’s and women’s games as totally different, but it’s not. They play the same game with the same rules. There is an emphasis on getting more women involved in the sport at the moment.”

Males or females, young or old, can take part in Moray and Banff’s next introductory course, planned to start on March 11, again held on Zoom. Meetings are traditionally held on Thursday nights but days and times are flexible due to the on-going lockdown.

The course costs £35 which includes a year’s membership to the association and Scottish Football Association fees.

Visit Moray and Banff Referees on Facebook for details on how to join.

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