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Cheryl Foster: Welsh referee aims to shine on football’s biggest stage

Cheryl Foster: Uefa elite referee ‘only got yellow cards’ for shouting at officials

Cheryl Foster played football at the highest level and is destined for the top of the game as a referee.

Former Wales international forward Foster, 39, has been promoted to Uefa’s elite list of referees.

She is now destined to take charge of some of the biggest matches in women’s football – and may be given major fixtures in the men’s game.

“That’s always been my aim, as a player or a referee, to perform on the very best stage,” Foster said.

“The fact I have been promoted from category one to elite hopefully means I get more high-profile games. [I am] not saying more difficult games, but maybe late on in a Champions League or potentially, fingers crossed, I could be invited to a major tournament.”

Foster, from north Wales, won 63 caps during a playing career that featured spells at Bangor City and Doncaster Belles either side of a decade at Liverpool.

The scorer of the Merseyside club’s first goal in the Women’s Super League, Foster retired aged 32 and took up refereeing.

She was added to Fifa’s international list of referees in 2015 and became the first woman to referee a game in the Cymru Premier – Wales’ top men’s division – in 2018.

Foster has now been elevated to Uefa’s 19-strong elite category of female referees, and is a contender to officiate in high-level men’s fixtures.

“In January I completed the Uefa men’s fitness test which meant I was able to do men’s international games,” she explained.

“Unfortunately the world lockdown happened and I have not been able to do any of those games because they were all cancelled.

“In terms of who I can referee, I can do domestic men’s and women’s and currently, until I have to do another test, I can do male and female international games.”

Foster combines refereeing with work as a teacher at the Bishops’ Blue Coat High School in Chester.

“They are both tough roles, but actually they both help each other,” she said.

“Dealing with naughty boys in school is very similar to being on the football pitch. I’ll leave it there!”

Foster was also appointed in October 2019 to the International Football Association Board’s football advisory panel, which includes the likes of former Portugal star Luis Figo.

Cheryl Foster spent a decade at Liverpool and 14 years wearing the red of Wales

Members of the panel are asked to use their expertise and knowledge to discuss potential law changes.

“They will seek people’s opinions on a law they think has been difficult to understand,” Foster said.

“It’s really good that they listen to the opinions of people who have experienced it and then they go from that.

“It’s really interesting to be on there. I was quite pleased when I walked in and saw my name tag next to Luis Figo’s – I rubbed shoulders with him.”

The next target for Foster is to referee at a major tournament, possibly as soon as 2021.

But her immediate priority is the Welsh domestic game, where she says her gender has never been an issue.

“I can only [talk about] the attitudes I have received and they’ve been only ever positive,” she said.

“Yes I have made mistakes, I have made the wrong decisions, but that’s part and parcel of it. I do think they react to me as a referee, not as a [result of my] gender.

“I can only thank and admire the FAW, my colleagues and also the players and the teams. They have all been positive towards me.”

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