THE role of a football referee can be a thankless task, but one Sunderland woman in black has been honoured for her efforts in officiating.
Sunderland College Sports Development Officer, Lucy Oliver, 27, was honoured to be named the “Woman of Inspiration 2016” at the national Women in Football Awards, at a prestigious ceremony in BBC New Broadcasting House, London.
Lucy, who is a referee in the FA WSL – the women’s equivalent of the Premier League – has officiated in games at home and across the world, with highlights including this year’s Woman’s FA Cup Final and the U17 Euros.
The Woman of Inspiration 2016 was voted for by the Women in Football network, which numbers nearly 2,000 women who work in jobs through men’s and women’s soccer. Lucy was selected for the work she does for women referees and for her efforts promoting football in general.
Speaking after the ceremony, Lucy said: “I had no idea I was going to get this award as they don’t release a shortlist of nominees, but I’m incredibly honoured to be recognised by this organisation that I admire and am proud to be a part of.
“Women’s football has evolved massively in the past ten years. The success of the Women’s Super League and the influence of the World Cup and role models like Steph Houghton, has seen it go from strength to strength and I’m pleased to have played a small part in that growth.
“I come from a football mad family, but I’m also part of the country’s wider football family and I’m incredibly passionate about promoting, protecting and enhancing the sport I love so much. Everyone who is involved with Women in Football does so because of this shared passion, so to be given this incredible honour by my peers is fantastic.”
Lucy, who is married to men’s Premier League referee and former Sunderland College student, Michael Oliver, has been sports development officer at the college for over a year, attracting over 1,000 students to become involved in sport during the last academic year.
She has also overseen the delivery of 27 different sporting activities over the course of the year, including six disability sports and is determined to build on that in the current academic year.
Sunderland College principal and chief executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said: “Lucy brings the same focus, enthusiasm and professionalism to her role at Sunderland College that she does to her refereeing. It is this passion and determination to succeed that has made her such a success with students and also provide such a boost to our sporting provision.
“I am delighted that Lucy’s commitment to her sport has been recognised on a national level. Lucy is the perfect ambassador for Sunderland College and for women’s football. She is without doubt a Woman of Inspiration – inspiring students, college employees and community groups to explore and enjoy sport at all levels.”
The Women in Football Awards are an annual celebration of the achievements of some incredible women in the football industry. The awards highlight the success of journalists, coaches, players and officials within women’s football and the majority of awards are voted for by the public.
Shelley Alexander, acting chair of Women in Football, said: “Lucy’s outstanding commitment and passion for all things football and her desire to inspire other women to become referees through her ambassadorship of the FA’s Pink Whistle scheme, makes her the clear winner for the Women in Football Inspiration Award. We look forward to continuing our partnership work with Lucy in 2017.”