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Ref Lucy is on the ball at college

Football referee Lucy Oliver has been appointed as Sunderland College’s new sports development officer

A top flight women’s football referee plans to encourage more girls to ‘take up the whistle’ through her new role with Sunderland College’s Sports Academy.

Lucy Oliver officiates in the FA WSL – the equivalent of the men’s Premier League – and has travelled the globe as a women’s international match official.

The 26-year-old’s career highlights include the 2011 women’s FA Cup final and the under 17 Euro qualifiers, which were played in Austria last autumn.

Now Lucy is bringing her expertise to Sunderland College as its new sports development officer, a position funded by Sport England to help 16 to 25-year-olds become more active.

Based in the state-of-the-art Sports Academy, which features a multi-use sports hall, sports science performance lab, sports massage treatment areas, exercise studio and a fully equipped £100,000 fitness suite, Lucy is working with the teaching staff to launch a range of physical activity programmes across the college’s four campuses.

She will be building on the success of the college’s community project, growing the range of activities available to students, and introducing a new fitness scheme for staff.

A former sports lecturer, Lucy said: “This is a different role and a new challenge for me. I really enjoy the development aspect of my refereeing and getting people of all ages active, so I’m really looking forward to sharing my passion for sports with staff and students at the college. The facilities in the Sports Academy are first class and it’s vital to ensure we make the most of them.”

Lucy, who is married to former Sunderland College student and premier league referee Michael Oliver, is also planning to work with the Sports Academy’s Football Development Centre, encouraging both boys and girls to get involved in the game, through playing, coaching and refereeing.

She added: “I’ve been involved in football from a young age as my dad ran a local team, so on a Sunday it was all about my dad, brother, me and football.  I started playing when I was about seven, but there were no real opportunities for me and no girls’ teams around so I gave it up. I wanted to stay involved in football in some way and that’s how I ended up refereeing. It’s important that people know there are other options available in football besides playing and coaching, and there are lots more opportunities in the sport for girls now.

“There has been a massive change in women’s football in the past ten years. With the launch of the women’s Super League, the influence of the World Cup and role models like Sian Massey-Ellis, it has gone from strength to strength and there is no better time to be involved in the sport for women. It’s a really exciting time for the women’s side of the game.”

Lucy, who also officiates in the men’s Conference North league and works with the FA to promote refereeing to youngsters, has travelled to South Africa, Botswana, America and Japan through her match appointments.

She said: “I have picked up some prestigious international appointments, and have been lucky to travel to some amazing places – hopefully there will be many more to come. My dream is to referee at a major tournament such as the World Cup, Olympics or Euro finals. The privilege and prestige of representing your country in something you love is incredible, and I’m very keen to encourage others to find their passion in sports.”

For more information about the community sporting activities on offer at the college, call Lucy on 0191 511 6000 or email lucy.oliver@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk

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