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French culture expert hits out at French Football Federation over female referee appointment

A leading researcher into French society and culture has criticised the country’s football bosses over their decision to appoint a female referee for a Ligue 1 game this weekend.

French official Stephanie Frappart will become the first woman to referee a top flight match when Amiens host Strasbourg on Sunday.

She has been selected for the game by the sport’s governing body in France to help her prepare for officiating at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

However, Jonathan Ervine, a Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at Bangor University, has claimed Frappart’s appointment highlights how slow French football has been to embrace diversity.

“This appointment could be seen as a symbol of progress and inclusion,” he told The Conversation.

“But the French Football Federation (FFF) announced that Frappart had been appointed as the main official for the Amiens-Strasbourg match in order to “prepare her for World Cup conditions” ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

“The FFF’s explanation seems somewhat begrudging as it makes no reference to Frappart’s experience or talent as a match official.

“It arguably presents her nomination as a means to an end rather than a logical next step for someone who has officiated in Ligue 2 since 2014.

“Indeed, Frappart has also been a fourth official or video assistant referee in Ligue 1 several times.”

Ervine went on to question whether Frappart’s appointment for the game constituted good preparation for the World Cup.

The smallest venue for this summer’s tournament has a 20,000 capacity, significantly more than Amiens who average just under 11,000 per game in Ligue 1.

With a 23-year gap between Nelly Viennot becoming the first female assistant referee in Ligue 1 and Frappart’s appointment as a main referee, Ervine believes the FFS’s decision leaves more questions than answers.

“Frappart becoming the first woman to referee a match in Ligue 1 is significant, but also somewhat paradoxical,” he added.

“In fact, it highlights the lack of career progression enjoyed by female officials within French men’s football – and across Europe, too.

“Viennot’s presence as the first female assistant referee in Ligue 1 did not herald the arrival of many more female officials in French men’s football.

“Frappart is still the only woman to have been the main referee in Ligue 2. It is unclear to what extent attitudes to female referees in French men’s football are evolving.

“It may well be several years before we realise the real impact of Frappart’s appointment as referee for the match between Amiens and Strasbourg.

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