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Football Referees

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will consult the Football Association about its policy of sexual discrimination with regard to the appointment of football referees.

The Football Association is represented on the Central Council for Physical Recreation, as are the other governing bodies of sport. This council and the Sports Council are now considering the proposals in the White Paper "Equality for Women" Cmnd. 5724.

I am much encouraged by the Minister's reply. My only regret is that the Minister responsible—

Will the Minister impress upon the Football Association that it seems unfair, if not unjust, that men can referee women's matches but women are not allowed to referee men's matches? Is he aware that there is a young woman school teacher in my constituency who has been refused registration by the local football association? This woman has passed Class 3 of the Football Association's rules but has been refused registration merely because she is a woman. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are 70 women throughout the country similarly qualified who wish to referee men's football matches but have been refused only because they are women?

I yield to no one in my approval of any measure that is designed to create equality for women. On the other hand, it is true that the Central Council for Physical Recreation has pointed out one or two complications that might arise in a strict application of this proposal relating to football. Those complications are at present being considered by the Government. I can promise the hon. Gentleman, if the House will not misunderstand me, that the council in question is engaged in a close and continuing contact with sporting women's bodies.

As a serious question, may I ask my right hon. Friend how many women are on the Central Council for Physical Recreation? Further, will he tell me how many women are represented on the governing bodies of many of the sporting organisations? Is it not indicative of the problems we face in straightforward teaching that so many of my colleagues on both sides of the House find this a matter for amusement?

It is, as my hon. Friend says, a serious subject. I am therefore happy to inform her that the Central Council for Physical Recreation represents all governing bodies in sport including those concerned exclusively with sport for women.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that he sounds rather like a player who played for a team that started the season badly and then fell away? I do not want to become involved with Liverpool and Everton, but does the Minister accept that the Government should in no way get themselves involved in the internal arrangements of our sporting bodies and associations?

I was trying to point out that the advice of those concerned was perhaps the most important matter to be considered. As for teams that fall away, I think that the hon. Gentleman represents an excellent team on his side of the House that has fallen away recently.

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Football Association to appoint the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) a referee, because she would not need a whistle?