Refereeing giving Bea a new lease of life
Moving to a new country can be an extremely daunting prospect. But it’s well known across the world, that where there is rugby, there is family to be found.
So, when Beatriz (Bea) Casares Fernández moved from the region of Galicia in the north-west of Spain to Scotland in 2018, her first aim was the make friends, and the rugby lover knew exactly how she was going to do that.
“I moved to Glasgow to study for my master’s in mechanical engineering. I didn’t know anyone in Scotland, so it was a little bit scary to start with not having friends here.
“I’d played rugby with my university team in Spain, but before I moved, I’d suffered a shoulder injury which meant I had to leave my playing days behind, so I thought why not take up refereeing instead.
“I wasn’t sure where to start so I contacted Scottish Rugby, and they put me in touch with the West of Scotland Referee Society, and from there I was signed up to my first course.”
There are six referee societies in Scotland, each supporting recruitment, development and deployment of referees within their region.
“The society has helped me so much in so many ways”, said Bea .
“Firstly, with my language. Coming from Spain, I had different words for rugby terms so when I started going to our monthly meetings I felt quite anxious because I didn’t always understand what they meant, but they helped me learn. Over time I got to understand things more from listening to people’s experiences.
“Everyone is very friendly; they’ve helped me find my rugby family. At the end of the day, refereeing is a solo thing, so the society have given me a sense of belonging and it’s nice to know I have a group of people I can count on when it comes to refereeing.”
As well as providing Bea with much needed connection, the aspiring referee has a dedicated coach, who regularly attends matches to provide feedback and support.
“Having a coach from the society to give me support has had a big impact on my confidence and abilities, and it gives me that sense of being part of a team too.”
Like all new match officials, Bea’s first game saw her pick up the whistle for a youth match.
“I’m a very nervous person so my first match was pure panic. But as soon as the game kicked-off I became the referee, and I left all the worry behind me. My coach was on the side-line, so knowing he was there to keep me right was a relief.
“I still get nervous before every match but I’m much more comfortable and I have a lot more confidence, so each match I officiate I get more excited. For me, my main goal is to make sure that everyone on the pitch enjoys themselves, and that includes me, and it’s because I really care about the game.”
Pictured: Bea (third from the left) with members of the West Referee Society
Now studying for her PhD, the 30-year-old is regularly refereeing men’s and women’s games across the Tennent’s West region leagues.
“The first few times I refereed men’s games I was really anxious, but for the most part I have been met with respect.
“It’s always funny officiating men’s teams because the first thing they ask is ‘what do you want us to call you?’. For me, I ask that they call me Ma’am. I personally like to be acknowledged this way to reflect that I am a woman on the pitch. But mostly all I am concerned about is that they treat me like any other referee.
“What surprised me is that so many of them had never been refereed by a woman before. At first it made me a bit annoyed to think that when so many of these men had been playing for years that they had never been refereed by a woman, just because it means there aren’t many women out there officiating. But then I realised, actually it is a really cool thing that I’m here to change that, and showcase that women are every bit as capable as men.
“There was one women’s game I was refereeing, and I remember the opposition captain said, ‘I’m so excited we are being refereed by a woman’ and that made me really emotional, it’s nice to know what it means to other women in the sport.”
From friendship to confidence, refereeing has given Bea so much since picking up the whistle in 2018. But the biggest thing of all has been the feeling of getting her sport back.
“Having to leave a sport you love because of injury is really hard, but refereeing allows you to stay connected.
“After my injury I never thought I would be part of a rugby match again. Refereeing has given rugby back to me. And that is my favourite part of being a referee, that I get to be there, on the pitch. I may not be part of either team, but I have my own team now at the society, and I’ve got the best seat in the house.”
Has Bea inspired you to pick up the whistle? Sign up to an Introduction to Match Officiating course today. Click HERE for more.