Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match as she watched Germany won 4-2 against Costa Rica on Thursday.
The Premier League is still waiting for a similar step, so when could a woman take charge of a top men’s game in England?
The answer is soon, according to Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, who broke new ground in the Bundesliga and is now in charge of England’s elite female referees.
“I am absolutely certain that we will see a female referee in the Premier League at some point, soon,” she told BBC Sport.
“The quality of female officials is absolutely breathtaking.”
Wendy Toms was the Premier League’s first female assistant referee in 1997, but only two women have followed since, with Natalie Aspinall joins Sian Massey-Ellis on the list of elite assistant referees for this season.
Steinhaus-Webb, who became the first woman to referee a top-flight German men’s game in September 2017, now oversees the development of female referees for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) in England.
She says Frappart’s performance and that of other female referees in Qatar – two other female referees and three assistant referees are also available for selection – is crucial in paving the way for a new generation.
“They’re not just playing for themselves, they’re playing for a whole generation of female officials who want to go further,” she said.
Steinhaus-Webb thinks the English game has several prospects with the potential to take it to a bigger stage.
“Now we have Rebecca Welch, Natalie Aspinall, Sian Massey-Ellis, Lisa Rashid breaking through those glass ceilings and really pushing boundaries,” she added.
“They are recognized for their excellent performance on the playing field.
“I have never seen a group of officials so professional, so organized, so detailed in their preparation, on their fitness goals, on their nutrition.
“The professional behavior that we can see now throughout the environment, it’s absolutely overwhelming.”
“I don’t want positive discrimination”
Janie Frampton was one of the first female referees in men’s professional football in England and went on to train FIFA referees for a decade.
She said the selection of Frappart as a referee, rather than on the sidelines, was key.
“I think it’s hugely important,” she told BBC Sport.
“My only concern was whether they were going to take the girls and then only use them as a fourth official? So it’s an absolutely fantastic moment.”
When asked how long it would take for a woman to take charge of a Premier League game, she replied ‘maybe five years’.
But like Steinhaus-Webb, she’s keen to make sure any promotion is for the right reasons.
“I don’t want affirmative action,” she said.
“I don’t want women to be promoted through the middle of the Premier League just so we can tick a box. They have to be good enough, but we have girls coming in now who are maybe good enough.”
There are over 50 official women in the Premier League, Championship, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship.
Welch was one of 12 referees at Women’s Euro 2022, with Massey-Ellis and Rashid among the assistants.
But Frampton thinks too many official women are lost at the top of the game due to grassroots issues.
“We’ve done a lot better, of course, but we still have a big gap of women, and that’s for a lot of different reasons,” she added.
“We need to make sure women see this as a welcoming environment for them.
“We have to try to remove some of the unconscious biases that still exist.”