England and Arsenal legend Kelly Smith calls for full-time referees in WSL after controversial decisions against Chelsea and Man City

Former Arsenal and England star Kelly Smith has called for Women’s Super League officials to be made full-time in a bid to improve refereeing standards in the division.

Question marks have been raised during the first two weeks of the season, with Tottenham’s shock 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Sunday being marred in controversy after a clear handball was missed prior to Karima Taieb’s late own goal which handed Spurs all three points.

Spurs won in controversial circumstances
It followed a dubious offside call in the opening weekend

That incident came just a week after Chelsea boss Emma Hayes called for the introduction of VAR and goal-line technology in the WSL following her side’s 3-2 defeat to Arsenal, when Gunners forward Beth Mead appeared to be offside in the build-up to her second goal of the game.

Smith – who is England Women’s record goalscorer – is against the introduction of such technology, but says WSL chiefs must make strides to improve refereeing standards in the league.

Smith exclusively told talkSPORT: “I can see that she [Emma Hayes] is trying to push boundaries and have the best for the women’s game and I certainly see it coming into the game in a few years potentially. It’s a very expensive product to be brought in and this is still a fairly new professional league.

“So, right now, I don’t think it’s the right time for that. I think it’s more about educating the referees and bringing the standards up of the referees.

“The referees should not be part-time in a professional league, in my opinion. We need professional referees and a better standard of refereeing, but they have to be educated and they have to learn.

Hayes has called for the introduction of technology in the WSL
Smith is also keen to see standards improve but not via technology

“Kelly Simmons [FA director of the women’s professional game] has brought in Bibiana Steinhaus and she’s one of the top female referees in women’s football and she’s actually refereed in the men’s Bundesliga. She’s come in and is going to oversee all the referees in the FA WSL and the Championship. That’s a good signing because she’s a brilliant referee. She is the best referee I’ve had. She’s so knowledgeable and so good at what she does.

“I don’t know what she [Steinhaus] is going to do – [maybe] get some workshops or some learning for these referees – but they do need to be better. It isn’t good enough that we’ve seen two big mistakes in the first two weekends. We want to be talking about the product and the goals and the flare of the players and the defending. We don’t want to
be talking about referees.”

On the pitch, it has been a flying start for Smith’s former side Arsenal, who are once again blessed with Vivianne Miedema’s presence up front.

Miedema became the WSL’s all-time top goal-scorer last season and passed another huge milestone last week when she netted her 100th Arsenal goal against Slavia Prague in the Champions League group stage.

Many are running out of superlatives to describe Miedema – who already has three WSL goals to her name this season alongside teammate Mead – and Gunners legend Smith believes that the 25-year-old is currently the best striker in the women’s game.

Miedema is the WSL’s most fearsome forward

“Her goalscoring statistics are off the radar,” Smith beams.

“49 with her right foot, 41 with her left foot, 10 headers, but no penalties and that surprised me, because normally your strikers stand up and take penalties.

“To score over 100 goals just speaks volumes. She’s got such good players around her that 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 movement is so intelligent and for me, she’s up there as being one of the best in the world, if not the best at this current time.”

Off the pitch, it was a summer of change for Arsenal with Joe Montemurro leaving his position as head coach at the end of last season, with the Australian being replaced by Jonas Eidevall in the dugout.

Arsenal’s new boss has made a fast start

The Gunners wasted little time bolstering their squad in the summer, with Nikita Parris a standout addition from Lyon, and the club also pulled off one of the signings of the summer by snapping up USA international Tobin Heath on a free transfer at the start of the month.

Eidevall’s side laid down a real marker by beating Chelsea on the opening day of the season – which was followed up by a 4-0 win over Reading – and Smith has been impressed by Arsenal’s new manager so far.

“You can tell that he [Eidevall] is a winner,” she finished.

“What I did like [is that] I saw a togetherness in the Arsenal squad when that [falling to his knees in celebration after beating Chelsea] happened. Beth Mead jumped up on him and gave him a big hug and you could see how much it meant to him and to Beth and the Arsenal players with the way they celebrated beating Chelsea.

“They’ve always struggled in the last few seasons against Chelsea and Man City, so it was a big marker that they put down. He’s really brought this new positivity in and confidence. The two games I’ve seen, they’re passing [the ball] a lot crisper [and with] a lot more pace and precision. There’s just a lot more creativity in the side.”

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