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Merchants' Academy teacher pursues Premier League glory

Stacey Pearson could become the first female referee in the Premier League

Posted by Lucinda Reid | April 02, 2018 | School life

A Bristol teacher is aiming for the top in the world of football refereeing. Stacey Pearson, a teacher at Merchants’ Academy is rising rapidly through the ranks of the women's and men's game and could yet become the first female referee in the Premier League.

She is one of only three English women chosen to attend an intensive course at the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence in Switzerland this May.

“I just want to be the best that I can be and to continue to develop as a referee,” she said. “That might be getting as far as I can in the men's pyramid or it might be refereeing a women's tournament – maybe even the World Cup. That would be really cool.”

Stacey was a central midfielder for Yeovil Ladies for ten years before turning to refereeing and progressing rapidly. She is currently the only female ref at her level in the South West; nationally, there are 323, of whom ten are women.

Moving to the next level requires referees to choose the referee or assistant referee route; Sian Massey, who regularly runs the line in the Premier League went for the latter, while Stacey has already decided she wants to become a referee.

She now officiates at men's Western League and Southern League matches and last year went to an Under-19 international tournament in Switzerland as assistant referee. In the women's game, she referees at Women's Super League games and cup matches, juggling it all with a full-time job as a PE teacher at Merchants' Academy Bristol.

“Luckily I am very organised and very driven, and my girlfriend and my colleagues are really supportive,” said Stacey.

“I have to keep my fitness levels up, which means training before school on occasions, and sometimes getting back late from midweek night matches. But I think being a teacher really helps me as a referee – essentially I manage behaviour during the day as a teacher and I manage behaviour on the football pitch as a referee.”

Like any referee, Stacey has to deal with what she describes as “abuse” and “moans” from players and the crowd, but she remains focused on ensuring her own performance is up to scratch.

“It is not easy, but having been a player I can have empathy on the pitch,” she said. “My cousin played football, so my twin sister Danni and I decided to take it up. In the early days at Yeovil, we were training in a field with car lights as floodlights,” she recalled.

That's quite a contrast with some of Stacey's recent experiences at places such as St George’s Park and Chelsea's Stamford Bridge. She still comes across less salubrious facilities though: “I went to do a game at Truro and they had never seen a woman ref before. I had to get changed in what was basically a laundry room.”

Stacey is able to share some of her experiences with her students at Merchants' Academy, where she also has a role in championing diversity. The school, which has the motto ‘Be Proud’, is delighted with her football success.

Merchants’ Academy principal Sam Williamson said: “We are delighted to have Stacey as a part of our team here at Merchants’ Academy. Her drive and enthusiasm both on and off the pitch and her championing of both sport and diversity add so much to our academy. Stacey is one of a number of very high performing Sport team members and we are currently in discussions to expand our provision with a possible Football Academy on site using our outstanding facilities. More on that as discussions progress!”

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