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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
The woman in the middle
By Mark Ashenden

Rachel the Your Game referee from Newcastle
I'm not bossy - you don't need to be to be a good ref

With the likes of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson always on your case every game, it's easy to see why referees need seriously thick skin to do their job.

Not that criticism from the sidelines or terraces has ever deterred Rachel.

The 16-year-old from Newcastle is a referee of real promise. And her skills were put to the test at Your Game women's final in the north east.

Rachel ensured the match between Geordie Girls and Stepping Stones would be remembered for the football, not for her decisions.

"I'm the sort of person who often looks at people in other jobs and thinks 'I could do a better job'," she said after Geordie Girls secured their berth in the Your Game finals after a tense penalty shoot-out.

"I didn't start refereeing because I was rubbish at football, I just thought I could do a better job than the referees around!

"Most of my friends work in cafes at weekends but that just bores me - reffing on a Saturday is a great job. And it helps you stay fit."

Rachel talks to a Your Game volunteer
Communication is the key to be a successful referee

As most footballers and fans can testify, you need to possess particular skills to control 22 highly charged individuals in a competitive environment.

But according to Rachel, it's more about using common sense than anything else.

"I'm not bossy - you don't need to be to be a good ref," she said. "It's very rewarding and they (the players) listen to you.

"I will speak to them before the match, I'm authoritative but not over-bearing.

"I don't actually get too much back chat from the players - it's all about respect - and it has been like that here."

Rachel's path to Your Game came courtesy of the local FA in Newcastle, who put her in touch with tournament organisers.

She was expecting the odd bit of fireworks during her games - but experienced completely the opposite.

"I expected more confrontation between the players, but the tournament has been played in a very sporting manner, " she said.

Rachel is interviewed by BBC journalist Mark Ashenden
Rachel takes a breather to talk to Your Game's Mark

"There was a really bad tackle and the guy on the receiving end was flat out on his back.

"It could have got nasty but the other player grabbed his hand and pulled him up - both of them ended up laughing about it and it summed up what this is all about, fantastic."

And what about the future and beyond? Rachel's no nonsense approach to football could find its way to the court rooms if she has her way.

"I'm going to go to Oxford University and become a lawyer," she said with a steely determination in her eyes.

"I want to stay involved in football but I do have a dream."

The courtroom's gain will be football's loss.

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