1 Ashfield Road, Chorley, Lancashire PR7 1LH 
by Jo Watson 
 
This week saw social media ring out the bells for International Women’s Day, and the world of sport was one of the key drivers in promoting positive messages and role models to support the campaign. 
Although Ramsbottom United Academy is currently a male-only football and education programme in terms of the scholars we recruit, this does not make it a no-female zone, and we are proud of all of the people who contribute towards our success – regardless of what football may still show a gender bias towards. 
 
Most people who are familiar with our work know that the Academy as a whole entity is headed up by a woman, but did you know that she is not the only female representative on the programme? 
 
We thought we’d bring you some snaps and snippets from today’s ECFA league match against ProFootball Academy (Stockport County), where we were pleased to showcase the qualification, authority and respect of our all-female line-up of match officials. 
 
Running the line we had Gabby and Jess, who have been joining us at the Academy on work placement during their time out from their studies at College. Both girls are just 17 and 18 years old respectively, yet both have extensive playing experience at high levels of girls’ and women’s football. Gabby is a former player for Chorley Ladies FC, whilst Jess currently represents Preston North End Women’s FC. 
Jo Watson, 
Head of Education/Academy Manager 
L-R: Jess (Asst. Ref), Jemma Entwistle (Referee) and Gabby (Asst. Ref) 
Overseeing proceedings in today’s match was Jemma Entwistle – a regular guest coach at Rammy Academy. Jemma is 19 years old and currently studying for a Sports Business and Coaching Degree at UCFB. She is working towards her UEFA B football coaching license whilst also holding an enviable Level 6 refereeing qualification. She has a strong history with our Team Manager and Head Coach, Steve Watson, whom she has played for, been mentored by, and recently succeeded as Chair of Academy Juniors FC – the largest girls-only football club in the North West. 
 
With everyone having nothing but positives to say about Jemma, we thought it was time to hear directly from the lady herself… 
“When you’re coaching or officiating boy’s or men’s football, you’re always going to worry about whether they’ll respect you and if they’ll give you more abuse just because you’re a girl and therefore mustn’t know what you’re doing. You can’t let thoughts like that stop you from getting involved though. 
 
Equally, it’s daunting being in an ‘authoritative’ position over people the same age as you, as in the case today, but when you have that situation AND the players also happen to be male, it’s understandable to panic a little that they won’t listen to you. But, I’m a professional, and I know I have to remain calm and focused. I’m the Ref here, and so I make the final decisions. Without the referee, whoever it may be, the game cannot be played – and you’re qualified for that reason! 
 
Referees are always going to get a bit of mouth no matter what decision they make, so I think keeping on top of such attitudes throughout the game is key. If any sexist comments were to be made I’d stop the game straight away and issue harsh consequences for all involved. I would think that having a woman running the Academy here at Rammy, our players would certainly know better anyway! 
 
I have to say that the reaction in a tough match today, from both sides, was very positive and the game was enjoyable – certainly for me, at least. I think I had a decent game and was certainly spoken to with respect. Not many referees, regardless of gender, can often claim that’s the case!” 
With the excellent attitudes and response of our boys, we know that at Rammy United we’re playing our part to ensure that gender shouldn’t even be an issue within football. 
 
Regardless of her gender though, Jemma is a role model, showing our boys exactly what can be achieved through hard work and determination at such a young age. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids? 
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