Progress in women's refereeing in the German Football Association

Bundesliga referees for the 2001-2002 season.
In 1978, 0.8% of referees were women (440 out of 53,473). The most recent figures show that this proportion has increased to 2.0%, with 1,530 women out of an overall total of 77,276 referees, so there has been a marked augmentation.

Up until the start of the 90s, barely any women officiated at matches above local level, or were invited to referee at matches as assistants.

Women's football on a national and international level
The German championship title has been contested since 1974, initially in the form of a 'European Cup' between regional title-holders. Soon after the inauguration of this tournament, the German Football Association (DFB) began to consider introducing a national women's league, which came to fruition when the women's national league took shape in the season 1990/91.

At the end of 1982, the first official women's international match was held against Switzerland in Koblenz, the first of many regular matches that have taken place since 1983. In 1989, Germany participated for the first time in the final round of the women's European Championship, which they hosted.

The first national course for women referees
The DFB Referees' Committee wanted to take advantage of this situation to launch a course and increase public awareness of the fact that women do not just play football, but also participate actively as referees (at that time there were 675 referees in Germany). The state associations were invited to send their best women referees to the first DFB course.

Under the leadership of then DFB Instructor, Hans Ebersberger, assisted by DFB and UEFA referee representative Volker Roth, who still actively referees, 25 women referees from 15 of the 16 affiliated associations at that time met near the location of the final game in Osnabruck from 30 June to 2 July 1989. Alongside sports and theory tests, the programme also featured a visit to the camp of the four participating teams and a meeting with a representative of the UEFA referees' committee. The high-light was the final game in which the German team claimed victory in front of a 23,000 capacity crowd in Osnabruck.

The story continues
Over the following three years, more talented women referees passed through the DFB exams and gradually women referees began to officiate regularly at men's matches above local level.

At the final of the two-division women's national league, Bundesliga referee Hans-Joachim Osmers was supported by two women assistant referees. A year after the inauguration of the women's national league, the DFB Referees' Committee managed to organise as many women's matches as possible to be officiated by women referees. The first ever list of women's referees was compiled, comprising 20 women referees aged between 20 and 40 years old who officiated at around a third of all matches. Four of them still work for the DFB. From then on, until the introduction of a single-track women's league in 1998, every final of the German championship was run by teams of women and each woman referee was granted this honour once. Incidentally, the same format applies to the final of the German Cup competition, which has been played since 1992 as the opening match at the men's final in Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

The DFB course provides examinations and qualifications throughout the summer. Testing talented referees is also carried out by other means. Their commitment to the women's league has won female referees recognition and promotion within their own state associations.

The first international duties for women
As early as 1991, the first woman referee officiated an women's international match. Gertrud Regus from the north Bavarian town of Hallstadt was that woman. Since then, it has been common practice for all international home friendlies to be run in this way. In the same year, Regus participated as an assistant referee at the World Cup in China.

'Women at the helm' of the ladies' (later women's) national league
After a short introductory period, the DFB Referees' Committee ruled that only women who had officiated at matches of at least state level standard (fifth or sixth division) would be permitted to register on the DFB referees' list. Thanks to this ruling, a maximum of just 12% of the national league games were presided over by men, a decision that was not without its financial motives. In both seasons 1998/99 and 1999/2000, there was only one man in each instance who had to take up the reins at short notice to cover for a woman referee absent through illness.

In a large number of games, women referees' performances were evaluated by referee inspectors who are also active in the DFB licensing leagues.

The quality and demands of the courses increased and prominent guest speakers were invited. Video analyses, training tips and discussions in English constituted part of the syllabus. The physical and theory tests no longer posed any major problems and many women now match up to the criteria set for male referees. While womens' refereeing used to be viewed by some as a hobby, nowadays it is taken much more seriously.

From 1998, a complete physical examination at the Lüdenscheid Hellersen clinic for sports injuries became obligatory. The examinations were carried out by Dr Ernst Jakob, the doctor famous for his work with the German ski-jump team, and the women's national team doctor, Dr Bernd Lasarzewski.

For several years now, the DFB has been hosting talent-spotting competitions for the association team selections in a variety of female age groups at the sports academy in Duisburg-Wedau. DFB national league women referees have to participate in one of these tournaments per year. All the other places are occupied by other talented women referees nominated by the member associations. Representatives of the DFB Referees' Committee and Inspectors' Committee are always present to coach the women referees on the field but also to gain an impression of their performance with a view to possibly recruiting them to the ranks of the DFB women's referees' list at a later stage.

Women referees in men's football
Since season 1995/96, two women, Gertrud Regus and Christine Frai, were regularly appointed to officiate games contested in the men's third highest division, the regional league. Gertrud Regus reached the DFB's male referee list for one season, where she regularly acted as an assistant to the then second division referee, Dr. Helmut Fleischer. This also helped her, as the only woman, to work at national league matches, for which Fleischer was known to be particularly suited. Unforunately she hung up her whistle a short time later, for personal reasons.

Now that the regional league has been consolidated into two divisions instead of four, Christine Frai is still active in the fourth-highest men's division (upper amateur division) along with a few other women. During season 2001/02, 22 year-old Bibiana Steinhaus made certain that women were once again represented in the regional division games. Because of her tender years, Steinhaus is a long way from making it to the FIFA referees' list, but she is training patiently with her regional association and working towards her goal of becoming a referee or assistant in the first or second division.

An important factor in relation to this is that, in the exams, there are no bonus points for women referees who have refereed a men's game.