Former Arsenal and England star Kelly Smith has called for full-time women’s Super League officials to be appointed in a bid to improve refereeing standards in the division.
Question marks have been raised in the first two weeks of the season, with Tottenham’s shock 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Sunday marred by controversy after a clear handball was missed before home side goal. Karima Taieb who gave the three points to Spurs.
The incident came just a week after Chelsea boss Emma Hayes called for the introduction of VAR technology and the goal line to the WSL following her side’s 3-2 loss to Arsenal, when the Gunners forward Beth Mead appeared to be offside in preparation for her second goal of the game.
Smith – who is England’s top female scorer – is against the introduction of such technology, but says WSL chiefs need to make progress to improve refereeing standards in the league.
Smith exclusively told talkSPORT: “I can see that she [Emma Hayes] is trying to push the boundaries and have the best for women’s football and I certainly see it coming into the game in a few years potentially. It’s a very expensive product to introduce and it’s still a fairly new professional league.
“So right now, I don’t think it’s a good time for this. I think it’s more about educating umpires and raising the standards of umpires.
“Umpires shouldn’t be part-time in a professional league, in my opinion. We need professional umpires and a better level of umpiring, but they need to be educated and they need to learn.
“Kelly Simmons [FA director of the women’s professional game] brought in Bibiana Steinhaus and she’s one of the best female referees in women’s football and she is actually a referee in the Men’s Bundesliga. She has arrived and will be supervising all the FA WSL and Championship referees. He’s a good signing because he’s a brilliant referee. He is the best referee I have had. She’s so knowledgeable and so good at what she does.
“I don’t know what she [Steinhaus] go do – [maybe] organize workshops or apprenticeships for these umpires, but they have to be better. It’s not enough to have seen two big mistakes the first two weekends. We want to talk about the product and the goals and the brilliance of the players and the defense. We do not want
talk about referees.
On the pitch it was a good start for Smith’s former side Arsenal who are fortunate again with Vivianne Miedema’s presence up front.
Miedema became the WSL’s all-time top scorer last season and took another big step last week when she scored her 100th goal for Arsenal against Slavia Prague in the Champions League group stage.
Many lack superlatives to describe Miedema – who already has three WSL goals under her belt this season alongside teammate Mead – and Gunners legend Smith believes the 25-year-old is currently the best striker in women’s football.
“His goalscoring stats are off the radar,” beams Smith.
“49 with his right foot, 41 with his left foot, 10 heads, but no penalty and that surprised me, because normally your attackers get up and shoot penalties.
“Scoring over 100 goals says a lot. She has such good players around her who feed her and give her good balls in the right areas. She would be a dream to play with.
“She’s so calm and composed on the ball. Her move is so smart and for me she is one of the best in the world, if not the best right now.
Off the pitch it has been a summer of change for Arsenal with Joe Montemurro stepping down as head coach at the end of last season, with the Australian being replaced by Jonas Eidevall in a dugout canoe.
The Gunners wasted no time building their squad this summer, with Nikita Parris a notable addition from Lyon, and the club also managed one of the summer signings by clinching US international Tobin Heath on a free transfer at the beginning of the month.
Eidevall’s side set a milestone in beating Chelsea on Matchday 1 of the season – which was followed by a 4-0 win over Reading – and Smith was impressed with the new Arsenal manager until ‘now.
“You can tell he [Eidevall] is a winner, ”she concluded.
” What I liked [is that] I saw a unit in the Arsenal squad when this [falling to his knees in celebration after beating Chelsea] pass. Beth Mead jumped on him and gave him a big hug and you could see how much that meant to him and to Beth and the Arsenal players with the way they celebrated their win over Chelsea.
“They’ve always struggled the last few seasons against Chelsea and Man City so it was a big scorer they put in. He really brought that new positivity and confidence. The two games I’ve seen, they pass [the ball] much crispier [and with] much more rhythm and precision. There’s just a lot more creativity to it.
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