Scotland’s Rachael Boyle says she was dumbstruck by comments from an English Premier League referee that suggested women can’t have a family and reach the top of their career.
Boyle, who is a mother as well as being an international footballer, says she’s living proof that women can have both.
Mark Clattenburg, a FIFA-listed referee who has been a match official in the English top flight since 2004, said in a radio interview that women had to make a choice between being having children or having a career as a referee.
Boyle responded with a photo on social media showing her holding her daughter Amelia after having scored for Hibs in the Edinburgh derby against rivals Hearts, with the comment “I beg to differ”.
Clattenburg later attempted to clarify his views by saying that passing the fitness tests was difficult when returning from pregnancy.
Boyle told STV she was still astonished by his remarks.
“I was a bit surprised by the attention it all got, to be honest,” the 29-year-old told STV.
“For me, I was a bit dumbstruck by his comments. I don’t really understand them and I don’t think he was fully aware of what he was saying.
“I’m living proof that you can have a family and football, or any career, for that matter. It doesn’t have to be a choice, in my opinion.
“I think that we can prove that we’ve went out, had a child, and came back and managed to get back to the top level of our sport. There’s more and more women doing it around the world, not just in this country.
“So it’s a strange comment from him but one that I’m not going to let get to me.”
Boyle said that she had no expectations about returning to the game after Amelia was born, but had found support all around her as she made her way back to the top. The midfielder, who has been at two tournament finals with Scotland and made her senior debut in 2010, picked up her 39th cap against Faroe Islands last month.
“I had no idea what to expect of my body, and how it would react,” she said. “To have the support of my club, family, friends and the national structure and set-up, it’s been great.
“It’s allowed me to get back to the level I wanted to be at and I just need to keep progressing and hopefully continue to get picked for the national team at the top level.
“It doesn’t have to be a choice. If you’ve got the right programmes and the right mentality, then anything’s possible.”
The Hibs star was speaking at the launch of a new initiative from UEFA and Disney that hopes to inspire girls to play football.
The Playmakers programme will use Disney storytelling, initially using characters from Incredibles 2 and Frozen 2 to help children play sport, with the specific target of involving 5-8 year old girls.
Boyle said: “As a proud mother, I am excited by the Playmakers programme as I think it will be a great tool in increasing the number of girls on football pitches across the country.
“When I was younger I loved Disney and even now, I still enjoy watching all the movies with my daughter. Seeing how inspired she is by all of the characters, coupled with her early interest of football, you can tell this programme will be perfect to engage the interest of young girls.
“Hopefully the programme catches the imagination of girls across the country and they reap the benefits of it. When I was younger I had to play with boys teams and there were never any opportunities like this. It’s amazing that girls in Scotland will have the chance to begin their footballing journey in such a fun way and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have.”
Scottish FA head of girls’ and women’s football Fiona McIntyre: “UEFA Playmakers in partnership with Disney is a programme we are passionate about in Scotland as we believe its unique style and format will be of great benefit to young girls across the country and ignite their interest to play football.
“After the programme had to be put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am now delighted to see UEFA Playmakers be rolled out across the country. Participation numbers have grown by a third since 2016 and programmes like this will only help us improve that figure and have more girls out on the pitch enjoying playing the game.
“UEFA are aiming to double girls’ and women’s participation in football across Europe by 2024 which is a goal we in Scotland fully support and through our Football Development department we look forward to seeing girls across the country become empowered by Disney and football.”