Hibs ace hits back at former referee comments about choosing family or career in football

Hibs Women midfielder Rachel Boyle has reacted to remarks made by former English Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg, in which he suggested that female officials had to choose between children or their career.

Rachel Boyle with daughter Amelia after a Hibs Women game
Rachel Boyle with daughter Amelia after a Hibs Women game

The 46-year-old, who took charge of the 2016 Champions League final and the Euro 2016 final, made the comments on talkSPORT radio during a discussion about the absence of female referees in the English top flight.

Sara Cox made history as the first woman to referee a Premiership rugby match last weekend but while Rebecca Welch has taken charge of an English Football League match and Sian Massey-Ellis has served as an assistant referee in the Premier League for the last decade, there is yet to be a woman referee appointed to oversee an EPL game.

“The problem with women is, and certainly in refereeing in football, they have a difficult pathway if they get pregnant during their refereeing career. It can stop them from going a long way," Clattenburg said.

He also claimed that women would struggle with the men’s fitness tests as part of refereeing, adding: “If you want to be in the men’s game, you have to meet that criteria.

"If they pass all this and then choose the right path, I believe that women should be involved in the men's game as well as women being involved in the women's game."

Boyle, who scored in Hibs’ 3-0 victory over Hearts in Wednesday night's historic women’s derby at Easter Road, took time off to give birth to daughter Amelia before returning to action.

The midfielder, married to Hibs men’s team winger Martin Boyle, posted a photo with Amelia after Wednesday’s game in response to Clattenburg’s comments with the caption: “I beg to differ.”

Boyle, 29, took time off in 2018 while pregnant but was back in action in 2019, earning a recall to the Scotland squad just 14 months after giving birth.

When invited to clarify his views, Clattenburg added: "When you have a baby, you're out nine or ten months and then you'll take another six months to recover from your body, so therefore it's nearly two years. And to pass that men's fitness test is very, very demanding."

Clattenburg attracted widespread criticism, with fellow guest and England prop Joe Marler branding his views “disrespectful and archaic” on social media while Jane Purdon, CEO of Women in Football, added in a statement: “Mark Clattenburg enjoyed a successful career as a match official but his judgement is way off when it comes to women referees and pregnancy.

"Mark says ‘the problem with women’ is having to choose between carrying a child and their refereeing career, and that being pregnant ‘can cost you two or three years of your life’.

"Women in all professions face challenges in balancing work and family. So do many men – but for men this is never seen as a problem, and men are never expected to choose between the two.

"In fact, many women in elite sport are in a position to resume their sporting careers quickly after giving birth. Others take more time out – by choice or by necessity.

"Neither of these scenarios is a ‘problem’. The real problem is assumptions about female biology, and gender roles in childcare, which are lazy, outdated or plain false."

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