How did you first get involved in football?
I used to watch my brother play when I was around 6 years old and we used to kick a ball around while games were on and one day the manager asked if I wanted to join in with the boys, so I started playing for Dinnington Town U8s and that was where it all began.
So did you progress further with playing the game?
When I became too old to continue playing with the boys’ team, my dad and his friend set up a girls team. I played for 3 years and then I was invited to play for Sheffield United Community Ladies. From here I then moved to Sheffield United Girls Centre of Excellence and continued to play there till I was 16. I actually got released which was really hard to take especially at the time in life. At this point I committed to refereeing and found knew I had found something I was going to enjoy.
Did you have any role models or support during your referee career?
I did, both Craig Grundy and James Bell at the County FA played big parts in helping me to get to where I am today. The support network available is brilliant and very approachable. Also Gemma Gale, who is my mentor this season, has helped me overcome challenges and guided me on the right path. My parents and granddad have massively helped me through my career, from running me around to junior games on a Sunday morning, to supporting from the sides in some of my biggest games now.
What’s been your proudest moment as a referee?
It would be refereeing the S&HCFA Women’s Cup Final last season between Huddersfield and Barnsley.
What are your next steps?
Awaiting to hear on promotion to level 4 referee, fitness test pending!! Hopefully aim to get as far up as possible in the refereeing world.
What advice would you have for others looking to get involved in refereeing?
I would advise anyone to get involved. I would also recommend anyone refereeing youth football to make the step to open age to gain the experience. It may seem daunting at first but it helps with personal development and gives you the opportunity to progress through the levels. It is important not to get put off by comments from players, managers or spectators, be confident and be the best you can be. The last bit of advice would be to fully utilise the support from the County FA.
Calum Oakenfold (Assistant Football Development Officer) commented: “With Women’s football taking such positive and progressive steps forward on the participation side, it is fantastic to now see more females involved with refereeing and progressing to higher levels. I would like to thank Mel for her time and for sharing her story and from everyone at Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA, we wish Mel all the very best for what we hope is a great career for her.”
James Bell (West Riding CFA Referee Development Officer) added: “Mel is a talented girl with ambitions to reach the highest levels of the game. Through the considerable time she has invested to learn and grow, both as a young person and as an aspirational match official, she has shown real promise and proved that no matter whom you are or where you come from refereeing is a role that has something to offer for you!
“I have no doubt that should Mel continue to dedicate her time and effort into committing herself to refereeing that she is completely capable of achieving the highest targets she sets herself.”
The main photo shows Mel leading out the two teams at last season’s S&HCFA Women’s Challenge Cup Final.