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Massey-Ellis hails EURO referees' team spirit

England’s experienced assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis looks forward to UEFA Women’s EURO duty on home soil – and tells us how the referees’ unity and mutual encouragement are crucial in helping each other deal with the highs and lows of their job.

English assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis
English assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis Getty Images

Sian Massey-Ellis has enjoyed a positive profile in English football for a number of years now, and can be justly considered as a pioneer as a female assistant referee whose qualities have led to her running the line in the English men’s Premier League and Football League, alongside her assignments in the elite European, world and domestic women’s competitions.

Coventry-born Massey-Ellis, 36, was a member of the referees’ team at Women's UEFA EURO 2017 and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and served as assistant referee at the 2018 UEFA Women’s Champions League final between Wolfsburg and Lyon in Kyiv. In 2019, she was also the first English female official to be appointed for a European men's competition fixture – the UEFA Europa League game between PSV Eindhoven and LASK.

Massey-Ellis's opening assignment at the UEFA Women's EURO in England comes at Sunday's Group D encounter between France and Italy in Rotherham. She describes her selection for the referee team at a tournament taking place in her home country as ‘a dream’.

‘Proud moment’

Sian Massey-Ellis: 'It's a proud moment'
Sian Massey-Ellis: 'It's a proud moment'UEFA via Getty Images

“There are so many great referees and assistant referees now. The competition is high,” she reflects. “So, when your name is on that list, it’s definitely a proud moment – [it’s] happiness, excitement, nerves. It’s waiting for those first appointments, what game are you going to get, how the game is going to go, which venue are you going to be in.”

Massey-Ellis enjoys the ‘family’ element of being together with other officials at a tournament such as the Women’s EURO. “It’s meeting nice faces and getting used to each other again, being in the same environment. We’re like a little family away from home, really.”

The atmosphere is invigorating, and laughter and relaxation is a ‘must’. “Having a laugh is really important when you’re away for three or four weeks together as a team,” she emphasises. “You have to have that kind of group banter, that friendship.”

“Actually, we don’t talk [about] a lot of football. At the dinner table, it’s ‘What have you got on your plate?’ ‘What foods do you eat?’ ‘Have you spoken to family?’ ‘How are your children?’ There’s lots of other talk around that enriches [the fact that] different nations [are] all coming together.”

Team ethic

And, when the serious work of officiating in a major tournament match comes around, Massey-Ellis explains how the unbreakable team ethic among the entire group of match officials shines through in the good times…and in the difficult moments.

“Obviously, as referees, you know when you’ve had a good game or a bad game,” she says. “You know when there are some decisions that have happened that have gone your way or not gone your way.”

“So, the mood in the camp when you come back, if something’s gone wrong, they rally around you because they’ve been in that situation. We’ve all been in a position where we’ve made a mistake.”

‘We learn from each other’

“Referees are especially the ones to put their arm around you and say, ‘Pick your head up. This has happened to me before.’ That sort of thing. So, we learn from each other in that respect. Equally, when a game has gone really well, we’ll be the first to congratulate each other.”

"So, there's that real team ethos, no matter which way the game goes…I think referees are such a special bunch.”