It has been confirmed that from the start of next season, Bibiana Steinhaus will be the first woman to ever referee in the Bundesliga. The 38-year old policewoman from Hannover is one of four new chief officials who will take charge of matches in the German top tier in the 2017/18 season. Steinhaus spoke to DFB.de after the news was confirmed to discuss her anticipation of her new step up the ladder.
DFB.de: Ms. Steinhaus, congratulations on the ‘promotion’. How did you learn of the news that you would be making history by being the first female referee in Bundesliga history?
Bibiana Steinhaus: Lutz Michael Fröhlich and his team are in constant discussions with us referees, which is why it came as no surprise to get a call from them on Wednesday afternoon — but when he told me about the decision the committee had come to in that discussion, I was speechless.
DFB.de: Hand on heart, did you believe in straight away? Or what was your first thought when you had been told the news?
Steinhaus: Disbelief, delight, joy, relief, curiosity — honestly, I am not entirely sure. It was a complete rollercoaster of emotion.
DFB.de: What does the step up to Bundesliga level mean to you personally?
Steinhaus: It was always a dream to reach the Bundesliga, and of course it feels fantastic that this dream has come true. It acts as a confirmation of the hard work I have done to get here and an even greater incentive to keep working harder to go further.
DFB.de: Although you are coming up as a referee, the promotion is the result of hard work from an entire team, correct?
Steinhaus: The work of referees is invariably teamwork. Both on and off the field you have to work closely and actively together to bring the best levels of performance. You can only do well as a referee with a strong helping hand from your assistant. In addition to that, the DFB setup allows us the space and means to concentrate fully on our tasks alongside the referees commission before and after every matchday. We also have coaches, permanent staff to help and a fitness team to keep us on track physically. I would like to thank all these people and everyone I have worked with today. With their work and support, none of this would have been possible.
DFB.de: You have been a DFB referee for 18 years, and have worked in the 2. Bundesliga since 2007, and now will be the first woman to officiate in the top league. Can you explain what that means, and what you expect?
Steinhaus: I am really excited for the task that is ahead of me. I know to expect a high level of scrutiny from the start of the season both from the league and the media. I aim is to make female referees a normal part of professional football and show simply that they belong in the game.
DFB.de: Lutz Fröhlich, the chief of the referees’ commission said that you have a special and distinctive in-game style. Do you know what he meant with that?
Steinhaus: My in-game style comes through intensive communication. To exchange clear ideas of what to expect early on and ensure everyone is given a firm guideline and to be empathetic to those who you are talking to in order to keep a level playing field. That is a vital part of the refereeing job.
DFB.de: There is also the question of what you do differently to your male colleagues?
Steinhaus: Barely anything. We aim to go into games as uniformly as possible and with the same standards and expectations, but of course, every referee has a different method of dealing with people.
DFB.de: Do you believe that the attention being given now can help be an example for young girls in Germany who want to follow in your footsteps?
Steinhaus: I would hope that the recent developments can have a positive impact on aspiring young female referees or open the door to those who may not have considered it. This is also true for Riem Hussein, a colleague of mine who works in the 3. Liga and Katrin Rafalski, who is an assistant in the 2. Bundesliga. Commitment and determination absolutely have an huge effect!
DFB.de: You are one of four referees who have been promoted to the Bundesliga today. Do you have a bit of sympathy for the other three that you may have stolen the show a little bit?
Steinhaus: We are all delighted for ourselves and for each other. It is a dream come true for all of us. I do not go out to seek the limelight and my colleagues know me well enough to know that.
DFB.de: One final question: what do you hope to be able to achieve in your first season as a Bundesliga referee?
Steinhaus: Above all else, that my performances are judged for themselves and not for my being a woman. Besides that, that we as referees can have a successful season together and not be the centre of attention too often.