Bibiana Steinhaus: 'Being a referee is about quality of performance - not gender'

Bibiana Steinhaus has spoken with a German podcast about her career as a Bundesliga referee, discussing how she commands respect on the pitch, the introduction of VAR, and her role as a pioneer for female officials.

Talking candidly on the Phrasenmäher podcast with Kai Traemann, Bibiana Steinhaus has opened up about her career as a Bundesliga referee, from becoming the first female to take charge of a match in Europe's top five leagues to dealing with the introduction of video technology.

Steinhaus' stature in the game is growing as a result of her performances on the pitch and not just her pioneering endeavors. She demonstrated exactly why she is so well respected in German football during a lengthy chat with Kai Traemann on the Phrasenmäher podcast and DW has picked out the best bits...

Read more: Bibiana Steinhaus exclusive interview

On how she handles taking charge of male players as a female referee…

When you have to and want to dispute things as a female referee against, let's say, 22 alpha males on the pitch – I don't think the question of authority necessarily boils down to yellow and red cards. Instead, the question of authority and acceptance, always come back to the question: how respectfully am I treating the people entrusted to me? I think what the players have learned to appreciate with me is that I'm very clear. I engage in a lot of discussions and always clearly formulate my expectations so that everyone has the chance to decide themselves if they want to orientate themselves around those expectations or not.

On commanding respect…

I have a high level of accountability. I don't bluff. I don't give notice to anything that I'm not willing to follow through on. And I give everyone the chance to decide of their own free will whether they want to hold themselves to the rules of the game or not. I think it's incredibly important that when you're interacting with people for 90 minutes that you make clear the expectation levels. What am I expecting as a referee from the players? And what are the players expecting from me as a referee? It goes both ways. I set boundaries, but am also willing to accept boundaries. I think that's vital to successfully working together.

On the discussion of male vs female referees…

I think we've shown that it isn't a question of gender when it comes to whether you can be an active referee or not. It's about quality of performance and performance aspirations. I've been in the Bundesliga for two years now. I think it's very accepted and the fact that it's not getting any special attention is the biggest compliment. We've shown in Germany that it works, and I would say the Bundesliga is the groundbreaker. They've taken it upon themselves to be as open and diverse as our football is. Our football is colorful, is multi-faceted and that's not just at the professional level. The DFL and DFB have taken a strong position in how we see football.

Read more: Bibiana Steinhaus overcame resistance on her way to the top

On VARs implementation…

For the whole process it's incredibly important to point out that the Video Assistant has the same remit as an assistant with a flag on the sidelines, which is to provide support the referee. At the beginning I think we failed to bring the fans along in the process. We didn't do enough to explain what the role of the VAR is. We could have done better, but in the last couple of months we've caught up in that regard, which is incredibly important.

With 16 Bundesliga games under her belt, Bibiana Steinhaus is still set to produce a red card

On the support VAR lends…

It's a good feeling of security that, in emergency cases, the colleague in front of the monitor who is equipped with an air bag, so to say, is there to provide support. That's a good feeling. But the aspiration is that we're better than the technology.

On the discussion surrounding VAR transparency…

In American sports, in several different sports, the referee's radio is open. In several different sports, there are situations where replays are shown on the big screens. Those are all processes that are in consideration between the DFL and the DFB when it comes to how we go about the role of VAR. How can we make it as transparent as possible? How do we communicate these procedures? They're in consideration, but nothing has been decided.

On making the VAR decision-making process public…

The review processes when the game is under review are the same procedures that take place between the assistant and the referee when there's a question of whether or not a player is offside or not, whether he's active or not. They're normal communication process that take place and aren't made public. I think that would be like the head coach inviting the press into the changing room before the game to see his pre-match team talk about how they want to approach the game. I don't think you need to go that deep [with transparency].

jt/mds

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Ms Steinhaus, are you a pioneer?