Amy Fearn has become the first woman to referee an English football league match, three years after her involvement in the game was denounced by one manager as “tokenism for politically correct idiots.”
Fearn’s chance to make history came after 71 minutes of Coventry City’s 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday evening, when the original referee, Tony Bates, limped off with a calf injury.
Fearn, who had been running the line, took the whistle while the fourth official stood in for her. Her brief stint in charge passed off without controversy, although she did have to put up with some good-natured cheers when she awarded her first free-kick.
Fearn, then working under her maiden name Amy Rayner, first made headlines in November 2006 when Mike Newell, then the manager of Luton, took exception to her performance on the line in his club’s defeat by Queen’s Park Rangers.
“She shouldn’t be here,” Newell fumed after the match. “I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?”
He went on to claim, “It is tokenism — for the politically-correct idiots,” before wearily asking: “When do we reach a stage when all officials are women? Because then we are in trouble!”
Newell subsequently apologised but was still fined 6,500 pounds by the Football Association.
The former Blackburn and Everton striker left Luton in March 2007. He subsequently spent a year in charge of struggling League Two side Grimsby but was sacked by them in October.