*BS*Dover Athletic’s FA Cup match against Corby Town on Saturday will enter the record books regardless of the outcome, with referee Amy Fearn set to become to first woman to take charge of an FA Cup first-round tie.*BF*
Fearn has been qualified as a referee for over twenty years and, in 2010, became the first woman to take charge of a game in the Football League game when she replaced Tony Bates as match official in Coventry’s 1-0 Championship victory over Nottingham Forest.
In November 2006, the 35-year-old – who was then officiating under her maiden name of Rayner – was the subject of criticism from Mike Newell, then in charge of Luton Town. In a match against Queens Park Rangers, in which Fearn was assistant, a decision not to award Town a penalty incensed Newell: “She shouldn’t be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?”
Newell’s comments were investigated by the FA and he was fined a total of £6,500 and given a warning by his club, offering an unreserved apology to Fearn after the event.
Since then, Fearn’s dedication and commitment has seen her develop a reputation as a quality official and the feat she is set to achieve this weekend will further increase her stature.
This will not be Whites’ first game officiated by a female referee – Wendy Toms, who would later become the first female to operate as an assistant referee in the Premier League, has taken charge of a number of games including Dover Athletic.
Whilst the side’s primary aim for Saturday is to progress through to the second-round of the FA Cup for only the second time in the club’s history, the extra attention placed upon the tie following the refereeing appointment is welcome and we wish Amy all the best for Saturday’s match.