Vikki Allan, 26, is a FIFA Assistant Referee, Youth Ambassador of Change for refereeing in Scotland and a finance company manager. She holds the world record for the highest game of football (at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!) and creates impact through her work every day.
Do you play any sport and how did you first get involved?
I did cross-country and gymnastics at school, but football has been a part of my life since I was little. My dad was a referee and my mum worked with football, so my Saturdays were always focused on that. To be clear, I’m terrible at football, I don’t play it at all.
How did you get involved with refereeing at a professional level?
In Scotland you can become a referee when you’re 16, so that’s what I did. All my friends seemed to be taken aback at first, saying things like ‘girls don’t referee’ so I kind of did it to prove a point. Here I am nine years later, I have a genuine interest in it and it shaped my life in a way.
I know that refereeing isn’t for everyone, you must have particular skills and interests to grow in it. I work with both the women and men’s games on different levels and it brings me a great deal of pleasure.
What was your biggest accomplishment so far?
Becoming a refereeing assistant for Champions League and getting my FIFA badge!
But I’ve also done other things within refereeing that I feel proud of. I’m a Youth Ambassador of Change in refereeing for Scotland. It’s a programme funded by UEFA that focuses on giving the voice back to young people in Scottish football.
Through that programme I was invited to take part in breaking the world record for the highest game of football – me and a group of players and referees climbed Kilimanjaro and played a football match inside the crater on top. We had to carry up supplies to make a pitch and then build it. There was a great mix of women involved, from international players to beginners, women from all over the world came together to support equality in sport. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience.
This year was about breaking the record for the lowest game of football in Jordan, Dead Sea.
Did you have any female role models within refereeing when you first started?
I wouldn’t say I had a role model when I first started, I didn’t hear about women doing those things. My dad would mention a name here and there, but they were not that prominent at the time. Nowadays there’s more and more women involved in the higher level games and they are becoming the role models for the next generation of referees. I definitely think that in the past nine years there’s been progress and attitudes towards female referees have changed, so it’s becoming a bit easier to get involved. We’re on the right track!
How do you manage to combine all your duties?
I have a very supporting family who understand my love for refereeing and know I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I also have so many referee friends! A lot of people think that being a referee is isolated and lonely but that’s not the case. The network is amazing, great people to work with and a very supportive environment.
Do you think refereeing gave you any skills you can use in your professional life?
So many! I think that the best thing about my experience is that I can go into a job interview and say I’m a great leader with confidence. Every week I go out on a pitch and lead 22 people, ensure their safety and wellbeing and make sure they are following the rules. But I’m also a team player – there are 23 people on that pitch after all. I’m there to make sure they all have a good time.
Refereeing is great for communication and networking skills.
It provides me with plenty of good examples to use in interviews and personal statements. I think it gives me a little bit of an edge as well, as being a female in football is quite unusual – hopefully not for long. It does leave a positive impression.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d love to get even more involved in sport. Recruitment and retention of referees in Scotland is my area of interest, there’s lots of positive stuff done but I believe we can do more. Encouraging females to become referees, not just for football, but for all sports. And I want to do it full time.
I care about having an impact. As part of my Youth Ambassador role I was involved in organising football camps for young girls in Jordan. They learned about football, coaching and refereeing skills. One of the clinics was supposed to have 60 participants but 160 showed up! It was on a camel racing track and it was a crazy experience. It was the first time for them playing outside – not just football, but in general.
We talk about the barriers we’re experiencing in sport every day but seeing it with my own eyes made it so much more real. It put the discussion on equality in a different perspective.