Women’s Power: Referee meets Loss Adjuster

FIFA Referee of the Year Bibiana Steinhaus meets DEKRA Loss Adjuster Monique Kordes to discuss safety on the pitch and on the road, as well as fairness and expertise in a male-dominated environment.


Bibiana Steinhaus (left) is a referee in professional German football. She referees games in the second and third Bundesliga, as well as in the DFB Cup. Monique Kordes (right) is a loss adjuster with DEKRA in Hanover. She specializes in motor and assembly damages. (Picture: Andre Germar/DEKRA)

Football is Germany’s number one sport, causing approximately one third of all sports injuries. What does the job of a referee have to do with safety?
Steinhaus: Football moves the world like no other sport. In Germany, football is number one. The German Football Association (DFB) is responsible for approximately 80,000 games every weekend – all of which need to be supervised by referees. Protecting the health of the players is just one of our roles on the pitch.

How does the role of a car surveyor contribute to safety?
Kordes: As soon as we have inspected the damage, we are then responsible for testing the vehicle for roadworthiness, so that the safety other road users is not jeopardized. That’s an important task.

Neutrality, competence and independence are core to the work of both DEKRA and a referee.Are there any other values that you would add to this?
Steinhaus: Yes. Both referees and DEKRA employees stand for sovereignty, transparency and professionalism. These values and standards go above and beyond merely playing by the rules. They also define the social interaction and sportsmanship on the pitch. Other important values include a sense of justice, assertiveness, empathy, diplomacy, loyalty, neutrality, objectivity and the all-important concept of fair play.

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These three core values – neutrality, competence and independence – also apply to your work with DEKRA. Where do you see further values?
Kordes: It’s extremely important to be self-assured in this job. You need to be able to stand by your decisions and not allow yourself to be swayed by external factors. Diplomacy is also a part of it. It is necessary to be able to talk with all parties in finding a solution, especially when it comes to the handling of damages.

Knowledge of and application of the rules is often heavily scrutinized on television. How does the referee manage to retrieve all that knowledge and skillfully turn it into a robust decision in such a short time, whilst in the middle of the action?
Steinhaus: Therein lies the challenge. The specialist knowledge that I have acquired, the experience that I have collected, as well as my perception all contribute to making strong decisions. Of course, consulting with my team is also an important factor. After making the decision, it then has to be communicated – not just verbally to the affected players, but also through body language to the spectators in order to demonstrate transparency as to why this decision was made, and not another. I can imagine that this would have some similarities with valuing an item.

Kordes: Indeed, I also share the opinion that there are many parallels in our lines of work. As surveyors, we need to be able to provide an immediate appraisal of the damages and circumstances whilst viewing the vehicle. We at least have the advantage that our subjects don’t move around, and we can discuss the details with our team at length following the inspection. However, that first appraisal is the most crucial.

The DFB is considering bringing in video evidence. Nowadays, millions of spectators have more and more opportunities to judge your decisions. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of video-assisted refereeing?
Steinhaus: At the end of the day, I’m open to any and all technical aids that ensure our decisions are the correct ones. Goalline technology has already been successfully introduced to Bundesliga games and I welcome the support it provides. It takes some of the pressure out of the decision. I’m not aware of how they intend to roll out video refereeing.

That sounds like a hint of skepticism?
Steinhaus: As I said, I have nothing against technological progress, but here’s some potential food for thought: where does video refereeing start, and where does it end? When is a team permitted to view the video replay and call for analysis of the footage? Could the system be used as a tactical tool in some situations? The context and criteria are massively important here.

“Ms. Kordes, when is your colleague going to arrive?” As a female vehicle surveyor in a field dominated by men, do people take your word when it comes to safety?
Kordes: No, often they don’t at first. I had one example of a customer that was entirely opposed to a woman assessing his car. He didn’t trust a woman to be able to evaluate the damages and the value of his car. It just so happened that none of my male colleagues were able to attend; I was the only surveyor available in the area. Following this incident, the customer has become my biggest fan. He was overjoyed with my work, and he gives me a call whenever he has a damaged vehicle. I think women just have to impress. As a woman, if you have a hobby or job in a male-dominated area, you’re automatically more motivated to prove what you can do.

How about you, Ms. Steinhaus?
Steinhaus: I fight against the idea that we as women need to prove ourselves in a man’s world. For me, it’s about being recognized for my performance and expertise in my role in a footballing context. Whether you’re big or small, fat or thin, blonde or brunette, man or woman — at the end of the day nothing matters to whether you can perform in your role. I’ve been refereeing second Bundesliga games since 2007. I’m certain that I would not have survived this long had the quality of my work not spoken for itself.

You don’t wish for special allowances?
Steinhaus: Exceptions aren’t helpful in promoting acceptance. Every referee needs to fulfill the same requirements before stepping out onto that field, everyone needs to pass the same athletic ability testing — no exceptions. After all, players won’t slow the game down just to allow the ref to keep up with the action. In addition to myself, there are other female officials, such as Riem Hussein in the third league, and Katrin Rafalski — an assistant in the second league. All were introduced without a commotion. They do a fantastic
job and are held in very high regard, both themselves and others.

What makes you special?
Steinhaus: Resilience is the word I’d use to describe refs, both male and female alike. Self discipline and the ability to criticize oneself too. We work hard, making sure that we deliver our best performance every weekend. We’re team players and support each other. We love football!

The DEKRA infographics shows the risk of injury in sport:

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Pitcure: Ela Strickert


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