Transgender referee becomes manager of fifth tier women’s side

Lucy Clark makes a presentation to Arsenal player Kim Little
Lucy Clark makes a presentation to Arsenal player Kim Little - Sport_Scans

The world’s first openly transgender referee has now switched to football management after taking over at a women’s fifth tier side.

Lucy Clark described being “prepared” for abuse after taking the role at Sutton United as the first trans coach at her level or above.

Clark had refereed in the third tier of women’s football but had previously managed in men’s non-league football in Essex.

The 51-year-old described her opportunity at Sutton, a relegation-threatened club in the London & South East Regional Women’s Premier Division, as “amazing” and “a dream come true”.

“I’m prepared to deal with it [abuse] should it happen, so we crack on,” said Clark. “I’m not going to stop doing something I love because of who I am.”

Clark returns to management as the Football Association faces intense pressure to tighten its rules on transgender players in the women’s game.

A group of 48 MPs and 27 peers recently signed a letter urging the FA to change its rules to “protect women and girls”.

Clark, who already faced scrutiny after transitioning while refereeing, says in an interview with BBC Sport that she is “thick-skinned”.

“I transitioned while I was a referee, and people don’t like referees,” she said. “There is nothing anyone can say to me that I haven’t heard or seen already from when I came out.

“There’s already been a few of the Twitter warriors who have said their piece, I let them crack on. I’ve been known as the trans referee, and that’s gone fine. Sometimes the words can get to you, but I’m thick skinned – I hit the block button and get on with it.”

Lucy Clark during her time as a referee
Clark during her time as a referee - Sport_scans

Explaining her return to coaching, Clark said she set up TRUK [a trans-inclusive amateur football team] “which got me back in the dressing room as a manager, and made me think it was time”. “I got the bug of being a manager again,” Clark added.

Stuart Andrew, the sports minister, told MPs earlier this month that he would hold to account the FA and other sporting bodies who were told in 2022 to exclude those who had undergone male puberty from women’s competitions.

Many of those bodies have since done just that but Andrew accused the FA of being “slow” to follow suit – with the Telegraph revealing in November that teams in a Sheffield women’s league had begun boycotting matches after Rossington Ladies fielded a transgender player.

According to the FA’s current policy, transgender players may apply to compete in a league of their “affirmed gender”. It said in November it was working with the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA to find a resolution regarding the Rossington case.

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