A female referee for the Kent FA was told she would raped by three vile fans while officiating a game.
Tia Walby, 18, was the victim of disgusting abuse and sexual harrassment while running the line at a football game.
16-years-old at the time, Tia was left in tears after the group of men hounded her for 45 minutes, making sexual remarks and saying what they ‘wanted to do to her’.
Describing her horrific experience, Tia said: “Half way through the game three spectators turned up and sat directly behind me, for the whole 45 minutes they were shouting at me, it started out with comments about my body and the way I looked.
“Then it became sexual, they were saying what they were going to do to me after the game, describing how they were going to rape me.
“I tried to simply ignore their comments, but ended up continuing to run the line whilst crying.”
The incident took place at Tonbridge Angel’s Longmead Stadium.
The scarring incident happened during an Under 18’s match.
A spokesperon for the club said: “I can confirm that the incident you have described did unfortunately take place.
“The men concerned were told to leave the ground immediately and not attend any further matches at Longmead Stadium.
“We are a family friendly community owned club and have a zero tolerance approach to such sexist behaviour.
“It is pleasing to note that since that incident we have had female officials as assistants at 1st team matches and there has been no recurrence of such an incident. “
Tia, who has been refereeing since she was 14, stopped refereeing for a few months, and when she returned focused on refereeing kids football. She eventually got back into refereeing all games, thanks to the support of her dad.
She said: “I was talking to my dad about it and he was like, you can’t let them put you off.
“I spoke to a few of my friends, [who are] female refs as well who had similar experiences and dropped out because of it and I didn’t want that to be me.”
“Punish for sexism needs to be greater.”
A recent report by Kick It Out revealed there was a total of 42 incidents of discrmination that was gender based last year.
Despite her experiences battling sexism on the pitch, Tia believes footballs attitude towards women is improving, but still has a long way to go.
She said: “Yes, I definitely think that it has progressed in terms of female referees excelling within the game, although I believe there is still a way to go.
“In the higher leagues, women are getting more recognition for their refereeing achievements, although in most cases they are still compared to men.
“It is definitely moving in the right direction but I feel that the following generations of female officials need more support to remain in the game and the punishment for sexism needs to be greater.”
How does the Kent FA protect female referees?
How to tackle discrimination?
With reports of discrimination rising for a fifth consecutive year, this is worrying for the Football Association.
Danny Lynch, Senior Communciations Manager of the FA thinks the best approach of treating a person after discrimination is through education, rather than punishment.