Somerset referee Jo Stimpson aims to make mark in the middle
Street’s Jo Stimpson has set her sights on officiating international football after making a rapid rise through the refereeing ranks.
After qualifying as a Level 4 referee last May, Stimpson has been taking charge of Toolstation League games for the first time this season.
She has ably cut her teeth with the men so far and now Stimpson wants to go all the way to the top among her own sex.
“I gave up playing and decided to continue my refereeing because I knew the next step was a big one,” said Stimpson, who first qualified as a referee in 2007 having previously been a talented striker with Street’s ladies’ team.
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“It’s not just the ability required at Level 4 but the improved fitness which goes with it. All women officiating in the men’s game have to complete the same fitness tests as our male colleagues.
“In May last year, I was successful in gaining Level 4 status to officiate in the Toolstation League as a referee and assistant in contributory leagues. I was totally made up.
“I really hope to have some involvement with the Women’s Super League that runs through the summer months.
“In the future my aim is to be selected on the Women’s FIFA list. In the men’s game, running the line in the Football League would be my dream.”
Stimpson first got into football a decade ago, with illness encouraging her to take up a more active lifestyle. After first making her mark as a player, she has never looked back since switching to take up the whistle.
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2003, so decided to get involved with sport in an effort to minimise its side effects,” said Stimpson.
“My children attended the Kickers and Dribblers Nursery at Street FC and I was asked if I would be interested in joining the club’s ladies’ team.
“After a season of friendlies, we entered the Somerset County Women’s League. They are still competing in the league to this day.
“In 2006 I started to get involved with the girls’ youth section at the club and found myself regularly refereeing their Saturday morning home fixtures.
“At that stage I decided to sit the basic referees’ course because I felt a bit of a fake refereeing these games but not really being sure of what I was doing.
“I passed my exam in 2007, which was not long after the men’s Somerset County League stopped using assistant referees. Before I knew it, I was roped into running the line for Street Reserves in their home fixtures.
“Following one game I met Rob Hooper, the referees’ appointment officer for the Weston-super-Mare & District League. He asked me why I was not refereeing games now I was qualified and, after some persuasion, I gave in and he appointed me to cover my first game.
“Surprisingly, the game went really well. I enjoyed it and have loved it ever since.”