#inspire – celebrating female referees in rugby
Melissa Wright has been a rugby union referee for the last 6 years.
Rugby has played a huge part in her life for 15 years and she loves that more women are being encouraged to get involved, without fear of judgement.
In collaboration with our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with Melissa to chat about how rugby has given her confidence, what motivates her and her passion for increasing the number of women within the sport.
Can you tell us a little about your relationship with rugby?
Rugby has played a huge part in my life for more than fifteen years. It’s given me some of my closest friends and been the most powerful source of self-confidence I’ve ever encountered.
I’m yet to find another sport, or indeed another environment, in which physical diversity is celebrated and welcomed as a source of strength in such a demonstrable way. I’ve seen the enormous positive impact rugby has on women in encouraging them to take up space, make noise, celebrate physicality and refuse to apologise for their strength and power.
What was your first experience as a Match Official like?
I remember feeling almost dazed in the first game I refereed. It was such a surreal experience to be refereeing a game rather than immersing myself in it. Fortunately it was a friendly match with a few referees playing – although they were very clear they wouldn’t give me the answers!
Tell us about your most memorable officiating moment to date.
Refereeing in the Allianz Cup has been the highlight of my officiating career this far. To be refereeing players from world-renowned clubs which I’ve admired for more than a decade, in one of the world’s best leagues, was a very special experience.
Who inspired you to take up the whistle?
I decide to take up the whistle after being refereed by some hugely impressive female referees. Seeing them in the middle really hammered home that women had every right to be match officials and made me want to take my own first steps into refereeing.
What motivates you to referee?
I love that by being in the middle I can give thirty players an enjoyable competitive fixture and by extension keep them playing rugby. Another huge driver is the knowledge that I’m showing male and female players that women deserve to be in the middle – and can excel as referees.
In a few words, please tell us what it means to you to be a positive role model and INSPIRE other women and girls to get in to refereeing
It’s hugely heartening to think that just by being visible as a referee in the middle, you might be inspiring female players or spectators to consider the referee pathway. It had never even occurred to me that women might play rugby until I stumbled upon my first women’s rugby team.
Equally, it wasn’t until I found myself being refereed by a woman that the notion of refereeing myself became a genuine concept in my mind. Whilst I’m aiming to get as high as I can in refereeing, the idea that stepping out on the pitch and refereeing has encouraged other women to do the same fills me with immense pride regardless of what level I get to.
If you’re feeling inspired to take up the whistle, find out more about becoming a Match Official here: keepyourbootson.co.uk/referee-toolkit/supporting-match-officials-female/