Former New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith to help improve officiating in women's game

Refereeing body to bring in Champions League winner; player perspective added to coaching officials; Smith's appointment one of a number this year to the team responsible for officiating the professional women's game

Rebecca Smith in action for New Zealand at the 2011 Women's World Cup
Image: Smith played at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for New Zealand.

Former New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith will join the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) as the organisation aims to improve the standard of officiating in the women’s game.

Smith, who won the Champions League with Wolfsburg in 2013 and skippered New Zealand at the 2011 World Cup, has agreed to join the body's Women's Select Group Coaching Team which is responsible for improving the development of referees in the Women's Super League and the Championship.

High-profile officiating incidents in games last season gained national attention but the PGMOL has set out a long-term plan to increase support for those taking charge of matches.

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The PGMOL's first women's select group director Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb discusses refereeing in the women's game and how it can continue to be improved.

Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, the first woman to referee in Germany's Bundesliga, was brought in last year to oversee the improvement of officiating in the women's professional game. Smith's appointment is one of a number in 2022 to the new team responsible for training referees at the top level.

"We are on an amazing journey," Steinhaus-Webb told Sky Sports' Inside the WSL last month.

"Everybody wants to develop the women's game as much as possible and us as referees want to keep up with it and develop ourselves in the best way possible."

"We are at a stage where all the needs to step up within the PGMOL, within the professionalism of the game, the demands on the referees are so much bigger than before. So we are having regular online meetings, the fitness surgery is outlined so the officials have to work incredibly hard to meet the standards all the time."

Smith, who played at club level in Sweden, Australia and Germany as well as at two World Cups with New Zealand, brings a player perspective to the coaching of officials, something the PGMOL are keen to tap into.

She was at Wolfsburg when they beat Lyon in the Champions League Final nine years ago, the same year the German side also won the league and cup double.

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Referee Abbie Hendry is hoping to inspire a new generation of female officials to join her on the journey to the top of the game.

The former defender also brings experience as a football administrator having formerly managed women's competitions for FIFA.

Smith will start her new role in the summer.

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