World football beckons for local ref Jane

HALIFAX referee Jane Simms has realised her one of her major ambitions after being appointed to the FIFA International List of Assistant Referees.

The appointment is the result of a number of years of hard graft by the Barkisland-based whistler and will, in due course, see her officiate at women’s football matches across Europe and the world.

It is a far cry from her first match in the middle when she was forced to brandish a red card during a Halifax AFL game between Stainland United Reserves and Copley Reserves.

“It is a dream come true,” said Simms. “I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the news from FIFA. It has been hard work but this is definitely worth it.

“There are so many things you have to go through like assessments and fitness tests after you have been nominated by the FA.

“I knew the process was going on but it is a real thrill when you hear that you have been selected.”

From her early days on the local football scene, Simms has steadily worked her way up the ladder and can currently be found taking charge of matches in the Northern Counties East League where Brighouse Town ply their trade. Simms is the nominated referee for Bradford-based Eccleshill United’s home Division One clash with Handsworth this afternoon.

She is also a highly-regarded figure in women’s football and was an assistant referee for the 2010 Women’s FA Cup final between Arsenal and Everton at Nottingham Forest FC, which Everton won 3-2, while she has also officiated at other top matches in both domestic and European football. A typically busy weekend of action will see her follow the Eccleshill match with another refereeing job tomorrow when she takes charge of the Women’s League Cup clash between Blackburn and Rochdale.

“I have been refereeing in the Northern Counties for two years now and really enjoyed it,” she said. “In that time I have definitely improved which is what you are always looking to do.

“I ran the line for the Women’s FA Cup final which was a fantastic experience, but without doubt my biggest game so far was running the line at a Women’s European Champions League game in Potsdam, Germany, last March,” said Simms.

“Potsdam are a side packed with internationals and they include a number from the Germany side who are European champions and have dominated the competition over a number of years.

“They beat FCF Juvisy from France 6-2 and it was a very, very good experience and a real privilige to be involved.”

Now with her new status within the world game, that day might soon be eclipsed by an even bigger encounter - particularly with women’s football gearing up towards the European Championships in Sweden in 2013.

And that is a tournament Simms has very much one eye on as she looks to add to her already impressive CV.

“I would like to continue to work hard and get to a major championship,” added Simms. “That is the ultimate aim.

“It would be another dream come true to be involved in Sweden, but in the future I would love to travel a bit further. I could go anywhere in the world doing something I love and that would be fantastic.

“I know what I have to do and as long as the body stands up to it, I will be going all out to achieve my goals.”

Not only has Simms succeeded on her own career path but she is also one of 11 ambassadors nationwide who have been charged with nurturing the next generation of female officials.

“Now is a great time for women to become involved in refereeing,” said Simms.

“There is a dedicated pathway for working towards a FIFA badge and there is help available all along the way.

“I am mentoring six lady referees at the moment and it has been a really rewarding time.

“They have been to watch me and I have watched them and it is very satisfying to be able to pass on your knowledge.”

With the roles of referee and assistant referee coming under close scrutiny at every level of the game, Simms takes a practical view of both jobs.

“I can’t say that I like one role above the other because both bring their rewards,” she added. “When I am running a line there is usually a more senior referee in charge and I can learn from them. I can then put what I have learned into practise when I am in the middle and that is how you progress.

“Referees are their own worst critics and we continue to strive too improve ourselves, not only for our own good but, hopefully, for the good of the game.”