Inspiration Cheryl will represent Cymru at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022

Cheryl Foster will reach new heights in her refereeing career this month

Picture and report: FAW

Factfile: GNW


North Walian Cheryl Foster is quickly becoming one of the most inspirational and influential figures in the women’s game.

The former Cymru international will take to the main stage this month after being selected to referee at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 finals taking place in England, and which began on Wednesday.

When Llandudno girl Cheryl takes charge of her first match, she will become the first Welsh official to referee at the finals of a major tournament since Clive Thomas achieved the same status at the 1978 FIFA World Cup.

The achievement will mark another impressive milestone for the 41-year old teacher, who only began refereeing at the end of her own successful playing career in 2013.  

As a striker with with Bangor City and then Liverpool, Foster made 63 international appearances for her country between 1997 and 2011, scoring nine goals.

But while she never made to the finals of a major tournament as a player, her decision to take up the whistle has been rewarded with an appointment she hopes will generate a new wave of female officials in Wales.

“I’m proud to have represented Wales as a footballer,” said Cheryl following her appointment. “To earn 63 caps in that era was tough, but to be able to continue to represent my country now through refereeing is just as big and just as important to me.

It’s going to be a very proud moment for the refereeing community in Wales, but also for my friends and my family who have been through this long journey with me from the age of 15 up until now.

It’s been a long journey and it’s been tough at times, but I can’t wait.  

“It’s going to be an incredible experience and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve not had many female referees through the system anyway, so more importantly I hope this inspires the next generation of officials in Wales, male and female, but predominantly female of course.

“We’ve not really had this opportunity before. I’m glad to have the opportunity to represent Wales at a major tournament and to fly the flag for my country. When I finished playing I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took up the whistle, so to now go to a major tournament is a massive achievement.”

Having impressed as a referee from the very start of her new career, Cheryl was promoted to the FIFA list in 2015, and in August 2018 became the first woman to referee a match in the JD Cymru Premier, but it was in 2020 that her current status in the European game was established as she was promoted to the UEFA Elite List of Referees.

Cheryl (centre) before a past Welsh Premier Women’s League game with assistants Laura Griffiths (left) and Charley Smith. Also in the picture is former Rhyl FC Ladies skipper and now CPD Y Rhyl 1879 captain Rachael Thomas

To compliment her domestic appointments this season, Cheryl has also refereed UEFA Women’s Champions League fixtures at Lyon, Real Madrid and Juventus as well as 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers in Denmark and Croatia.

Cymru manager Gemma Grainger said: “Cheryl is a fantastic role model. It’s such a huge tournament and it’s going to be one of the biggest European Championships ever. To have her on that stage is a real inspiration.

“I’ll certainly be looking to pick her brains about the tournament as it’s an opportunity for me, the staff and the players to learn from because we want to qualify and compete at these tournaments, so it’s great to have her there.

“When I speak to Cheryl it’s nice to speak to a referee who has been a player because you get a different perspective. Cheryl is a great role model for us and it will be nice to see her there this summer.”

The EURO finals were originally scheduled to take place last summer but were postponed due to the pandemic and will now take place between now and 31 July across 10 stadiums in England.

Although Cymru failed to qualify for the finals, Cheryl’s appointment will create plenty of interest across the country and will show just what opportunities can arise from a career as a match official.

It will be another exciting chapter in what is an already incredible story.

CHERYL FOSTER – FACTFILE

  • Born: October 4, 1980
  • After starting football career at Conwy Devils, she moved to Bangor City and was a huge success in Keith Fearns’ successful side, finishing top-scorer in every season between 1999/00 and 2002/03 and winning the Welsh Cup twice.
  • Joined Liverpool in 2003 and by 2009-10 was the Reds’ longest serving player.
  • That 2009-10 season she was the Northern Division top marks-woman with 16 goals as Liverpool romped to the title.
  • Cheryl and Liverpool team-mate Kelly Jones joined FAI Women’s Cup winners St Francis on loan for a 2010–11 UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying tournament in August 2010.
  • After being released by Liverpool in 2012, Cheryl had a brief spell at Doncaster Rovers Belles before deciding to retire and take up refereeing.
  • Won 63 full caps for Wales between 1997-2011
  • Started training as a referee in 2013 after retiring as a professional footballer aged 32.
  • In December 2015, was appointed to FIFA’s international list.
  • She has since refereed the Women’s Welsh Cup Final, led the first all-women officials team in a men’s final and been the woman in the middle in several internationals, including the Uefa Euro Under-17s.
  • Also regularly referees in the men’s tier 1 Cymru Premier League.
  • Cheryl was just one of three new women Elite referees appointed for 2020-21, alongside Marta Huerta de Aza (ESP) and Tess Olofsson (SWE).
  • In 2021-22 she refereed UEFA Women’s Champions League fixtures at Lyon, Real Madrid and Juventus as well as 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers in Denmark and Croatia
  • 2022 – chosen to referee at the UEFA Women’s Euros
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