Innovative in many areas, such as the use of video or the sound system for referees, in force in rugby long before football, the oval is behind in the field of women’s refereeing. France’s Stéphanie Frappart led a match in the Men’s Champions League, the highest professional level in Europe, but rugby still only uses women at the level of the second national division. For the moment.
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There is no doubt that Aurélie Groizeleau, 32, will be at the forefront when it comes to sending a woman to the fields of the Top 14. First to have refereed a six-nation women’s match in 2019 – “In front of 10,000 English people, it’s the best memory of my career” –, it is in pole position to reach the upper echelon of the French championship and European Cups.
“We run less quickly, so we have to anticipate”
At the age of 20, she dropped the ball after a serious injury to catch the whistle, climbing the promotion stairs four to four. “ It went very quickly, I was one of the first, it’s true that it was easier to go up, but the exams and the evaluations allowing to pass from one level to another are not easier for the students. women “, said this wife of a referee (also in Pro D2).
When she is not refereeing, this semi-pro benefiting from a part-time CDD at the Federation officiates in another world of boys: the family pigeon breeding in Charente, alongside her brother and her father.
“I started rugby at 5 in the village club, until I left at 15 for the training center of the women’s section of Toulouse, I have always been the only girl in the field”, tells the young woman with the slender profile. ” You can’t run as fast as the players on the field, so you have to learn to read the game, to anticipate even more to be always in the right place at the right time, for the rest you do not referee any differently from men ”, she explains.
She must also work on a particular point, the range of her voice. “You have to be careful never to go up in the treble when you speak firmly to the players, it can be worked on, I do it by forcing myself to speak calmly while I run during my training”, tells the young woman, who also takes care to avoid any familiarity of the genre “Guys, let’s calm down”, which could have the opposite effect on mountains of muscle stuffed with testosterone. “Rugby is a tough, manly contact sport, it’s cultural, but there is no question of being an accomplice to that, the ‘cocks that fight’ type, that leaves me unmoved, the players must see right now I’m going to apply the rule, period. “
“One day sexist insults will disappear”
These gentlemen have long learned to respect this little piece of woman, who has been able to defuse real trench wars at the lower level, when the derbies oppose neighboring and competing cities. « I was never afraid of being attacked, at the beginning my mother was a little afraid for me that two 150 kg guys fell on me by accident, it’s true that it is possible, but it’s mine to be vigilant. “
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“It’s going well, I think they know how to recognize competence, and in rugby, we are used to never verbally contesting the referee, at least at a good level”, she continues. According to her, nothing is against the 10% share of female referees, the stated objective of the French federation, to be soon reached.
“Football has shown the way, more and more young women are interested in rugby, so we will get there, she predicts. There is still to educate the public, as soon as a referee whistles something that does not please, the sexist insults start to fly from the stands, of course I have been asked several times to return to my pans, I do not don’t pay attention, I’m trained to stay focused, and someday that will go away. “