Bibiana Steinhaus: Woman in Authority

Jun 8, 2020

Life Stories

Bibiana Steinhaus


Bibiana Steinhaus was born in 1979. She played football for SV Bad Lauterberg and took up refereeing at the age of 15. Her father was a referee. By 2001 Bibiana was an official in the Regionalliga; by 2007 she was the first female referee in men’s professional football in Germany.

Breaking the Mould

Bibiana Steinhaus became the leading referee in women’s football, chosen for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup and UEFA Nations Cup in 2009, Women’s World Cup in 2011, Olympic Games in 2012. Bibiana reached the Bundesliga in 2017, refereeing Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen. Outside football, Bibiana trained as a police officer, rising to be Chief Inspector. Her partner since 2016 (English World Cup referee Howard Webb) is also a police officer.

Controversy and Impact

Bibiana Steinhaus faced a lot of abuse: from football crowds, on social media, and within the game. In 2014, as the fourth official, she had a confrontation with Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola. She was subjected to sexist insults by a Dusseldorf player Kerem Demirbay (who was fined and had to referee girls football as part of the sentence) after issuing a second yellow card. In 2019, Iranian State TV cancelled its coverage of a Bundesliga match because she was the referee.

Thinking points

Bibiana Steinhaus is a high-profile referee in women’s football; her partner, Howard Webb was a high-profile referee in the men’s game.

Educators could look at the life story of Bibiana Steinhaus and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. How difficult is it to be a woman controlling high-pressure matches in men’s football watched by huge crowds and with intense media coverage?
  2. How might the career of Bibiana Steinhaus contribute to equality for women?

Find out more

To find out more about Bibiana Steinhaus look at this interview with her. She also gave more insights in this interview. To read more about Iran Controversy. This video is also very interesting and see how Bibiana Steinhaus prepares herself for a match.


Bibiana Steinhaus Woman in charge, 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)

Bibiana Steinhaus Woman in charge, 2008 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Life Story

Bibiana Steinhaus was the first female referee in men’s professional football in Germany. Her story is about inclusion and diversity.


Article Tags:   discrimination  |   diversity  |   gender history  |   pioneers

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