This weekend, football supports Rainbow Laces, the Stonewall campaign to increase inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community in sport, and we would like to extend a warm welcome to Lucy Clark tomorrow afternoon at Meadow Park.
Lucy is a transgender referee who officiates in women’s football, and she is proud to be part of the campaign. “It’s so important to keep having the conversation about LGBTQ+ people being involved in football and for clubs to continue to show that the community is welcomed and wanted,” she says.
Lucy has always been involved in the sport, and started young. “I actually refereed my first game when I was about ten and refereed the odd game here and there as it was something I always enjoyed. But I concentrated on playing and then managing until 2006, when I decided to take up refereeing with the thought process of looking at players in the lower leagues before I got back into managing. I ended up enjoying refereeing so much that I continued with the whistle and gave up any thoughts of managing again.”
Lucy is an inspiration to others for her strength of mind. “To be honest I don’t think the fact I’m transgender has affected my journey at all apart from the fact that I feel at home officiating in women’s football now, if that makes any sense. It is nice not having to hide my identity now and I’m so glad I reversed my original decision to give up football as I was unsure how I would be accepted.”
She isn’t just a referee, of course – Lucy is also a massive Arsenal fan. “I remember as a youngster watching the amazing 1979 FA Cup final when we beat Man Utd 3-2 and I was hooked. My first game was in 1981 on my birthday when we beat Liverpool 2-1 and since then I’ve experienced the highs and the lows, with probably the 1989 victory at Anfield being my favourite moment.
“Brady, Merson, Bergkamp and Henry are players I have loved watching. Sol Campbell joining from Spurs was a great moment and of course Tony Adams – what a leader.
“I’ve followed the women’s team since it started in 1987. The team of the late 1990s was totally amazing with Faye White and Marieanne Spacey, and then the Champions League-winning side was an amazing team.
“The current side I think is up there with the best Arsenal teams of all time and I really think they have a great chance in every competition this season. I expect some silverware! Leah and Beth were both outstanding for England this summer and are probably my favourite players to watch, but we have so much class throughout the squad that whatever XI Jonas picks we play great football.”
The good news away from our own team is that Lucy feels football is becoming a safer and more welcoming place for those from gender-diverse identities. “My experience has been 99% positive, and people have been so accepting. This is the best sport in the world and should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their gender identity or sexuality.”
We know there is more to be done both on and off the pitch, but Lucy’s positive experience extends to refereeing matches for both men and women. “There are differences – the women’s game is much better and players are more honest!” she says. “The respect for referees is much higher in the women’s game and the players are more honest and don’t try to hoodwink you as much as the men do.”