SUFFOLK’S Emily Heaslip said refereeing the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final was a 'surreal' experience.
The 29-year-old from Bury St Edmunds took charge of the final at Wembley Stadium in which Chelsea defeated Manchester United 1-0.
Emily (above centre) has had time to reflect on being in the middle before the sell-out crowd of 77,390 – a world record for a domestic women’s match.
She said: “It was really surreal and still is now thinking about it. When we first walked out of the tunnel towards the red carpet, the sound of eruption from the fans and warmth from the fire explosions is something I’ll never forget.
“During the game, I don’t really notice the atmosphere as I am concentrating on what’s in front of me. When Chelsea scored, the noise from the celebration was something I’ll remember as well.
“I don’t think this occasion will ever sink in. Of course, I’m really proud to have refereed the Cup final, but more importantly seeing my parents in the crowd and seeing how much it meant to them, that’s the cherry on the cake for me.”
Emily said there were three stand-out moments on the day itself.
“Firstly, walking out of the tunnel, secondly a random moment when the ball had gone out and I had a moment to look round the stadium and see so many people there, and finally right at the end when we got to meet family. My mum burst into tears and gave me a massive hug. That will live with me forever. I owe her so much,” she said.
Emily, who only seriously took up refereeing when she stopped playing, said she could never have envisaged that one day she would referee a Women’s FA Cup Final.
“Absolutely not! If it wasn’t for Trevor Pollard, one of the nicest blokes in refereeing and one of the most respected coaches in Suffolk, there is no chance I would have refereed an FA Cup Final.
“I was still playing when I completed the Referee course, so my focus and ambitions were not on refereeing at the time.
“It wasn’t until I decided to stop playing and give refereeing ‘a real go’ and hearing from various coaches that I had some potential, did I really start to take it seriously and start to become ambitious,” she reflected.
Emily said she received some special mementoes from the day.
“As well as a medal, which is really special and I am hoping to get framed with my shirt, I also got an official printed match ball, and some engraved gifts from The FA,” she said.
Emily will be involved in this weekend’s climax to the Barclays Women’s Super League season before taking a short, but much-needed, break.
She added: “We will get a bit of a break and some down time. There will be training camps in the off-season, plus a training plan to follow, fitness testing and VAR tournaments etc, and of course pre-season friendlies in there.”
Emily has ambitions to officiate at a high level in both the men’s and women’s games.
“I’m still operating on both the men’s and women’s pathways, so it’s busy. I go one game at a time, but talking next career focus, I’d love to be on the EFL in a few seasons and regularly operating internationally within the Women’s game,” she said.
Former Suffolk official Abi Byrne, who refereed the 2019 SSE Women’s FA Cup Final, was fourth official at the final a week ago on Sunday.
The match officials are pictured above (left to right) Reserve Assistant Referee Sophie Dennington, Assistant Referee Chloe-Ann Small, Referee Emily Heaslip, Assistant Referee Georgia Ball and Fourth Official Abi Byrne.