30 under 30: Vikki Allan

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Vikki Allan, 24, Edinburgh

Vikki Allan has done huge amounts for women’s football refereeing. She has worked her way up to become a referee at the Women’s Premiership level, and she has progressed through the leagues to become a FIFA Assistant.  She is also a Scottish FA Refereeing Youth Ambassador of Change and she ensures that interests and suggestions from young people inform the decision-making processes within the management of Scottish football. These days there are just over 120 female officials registered in Scotland, and only one third of them are regularly involved in matches up and down the leagues across the country, so all the work that Vikki does is absolutely crucial in ensuring diversity and representation. 

Vikki has started her refereeing journey eight years ago, after a friend told her that “a girl can’t do that!”. How many of us have been there and heard that phase for all sorts of professions and passions? When Vikki started refereeing it was still unusual for women to referee men’s matches, and Vikki would usually have to change in a broom cupboard and she had some sexist comments directed at her. But just like Elizabeth Warren “she persisted” and now she doesn’t even think of herself as a female referee any more, she’s just a referee. And while sometimes people are still bit taken aback when she first arrives at the pitch, after 15-20 minutes she’s treated just like any other referee.   

Vikki is also passionate about raising awareness about women in football, and she is a member of Equal Playing Field (EPF), a non-profit initiative to challenge gender inequality in sport, promote sports development for girls and women globally, and raise the profile of inspirational female sporting role models in the media.  

In June 2017 Vikki was one of 32 women from 20 continents who climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, hauling goal posts and nets with them to play the highest altitude game of football. Of any gender. Ever in the history. Just let that sink in.  

There is a talk of EPF breaking another world record by playing the world’s lowest football match next at the bottom of the Dead Sea in Jordan. Regardless of whether Vikki will end up with another world record under her belt or not, one thing is certain she will continue to inspire girls and young women to kick the patriarchy out of the football pitch (all the puns very much intended).


What’s your proudest achievement?

It definitely has to be this year. This year I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of women to play a game of football at the top. It took us seven days to climb, because we had to acclimatize on our way. And it was to break the world record for the highest altitude game of football, male or female, to raise awareness of gender equality in sports, and to prove that it’s not just men who can do it, and not just females who want equality across sports. I didn’t think I was going to make it, I’ll be honest. For the summit night, you get up at 2 am and climb for five hours in pitch dark, and it’s like straight up mountain, and you go zig zag back and forth for five hours. And I thought to myself “why am I doing that?”, “why am I putting myself through this?”. Then I thought about all the stories that other girls climbing with me told me about the challenges they were going through. They were from all over the world, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Argentina, France, everywhere. And I thought “I have to go and show other girls around the world that we can do this, we can get rid of this equality gap in sports”. And to else get the game done for all these other girls, because there were only two other assistant referees, so if we couldn’t do it there was a chance that the game wouldn’t happen. I couldn’t let my Mountain Sisters down. I had to do this. I was cold, I was tired, but it didn’t matter. We got to the top, and then we played a 90-minute game of football. All the way up the mountain they were checking our oxygen levels, because the higher you get the less oxygen you have. You should be between 95 and 100 percent at all times, and as we were going up the mountain we would see our oxygen levels going down night by night. Before we did the game, they made us walk, just walk not run, around the pitch, and they took our oxygen levels to see how exhausted we were, and mine was down to 50 percent, which if I was back home they would put me in the hospital for. But I still had to run, I still had to complete this game on the summit of Kilimanjaro 5740 m above sea levelBasically, this game was equivalent of six hours of constant football. And I was so proud we all managed to do it and break the record. 

Also, all the girls who were on the mountain with me. I would have never made that climb if it wasn’t for them. Some of them were from really male-dominated countries, and they were never meant to play football, and there I was complaining about not having my own changing room. And okay it’s also tough for us, and there is definitely inequality, but to hear their stories just inspires me every day, and we need to find equality worldwide, not just locally. If all of our voices come together we can really make change happen.  

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

I would really like to see showcasing of what females can do in sport and everything else. Sport is close to me, but there are so many other examples. In last ten years there was nothing for women’s football. Nobody knew anything about it. In last five years they started to show some games on television, bits and bobs. And now BBC reports around one game a week. One game that’s it. I’d love in next ten years for women’s game to be mainstream, not just having one game. I’m sure they only show one home game, not even away games. They only show that on BBC Alba, and as I said it’s fantastic compared to last ten years, but I’d love just to have it on BBC. Why are women’s games not shown like men’s games? How are young girls going to see those role models? I never knew of female referees when I was younger. I knew about my dad, my dad was a referee, and he really supported me. But it wasn’t until I actually got into the refereeing movement that I realised that there are other girls, there is Lorraine, and Kyle started just after me. All these women were there, I just didn’t know about them. So we really need to showcase them, we need to get it out there. Why only one report a week? You go to BBC Sport and how many men’s games are written about? Why do we only get one report a week in Scotland? And it’s really to show what we can do and to give little girls role models for the future.  

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

We need to tell everyone, not just little girls, that we are equal. So why are showcasing just men’s and not women’s games? It’s just needs to be an equal playing field. Why are men’s teams paid thousands and millions of pounds and women are playing for free for our national teams? It needs to be everywhere. We need to get the ball rolling.  

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

Michelle Obama. I think her Let Girls Learn campaign is amazing. Once we have education we can start seeing equality. Emma Watson. LOVE Emma Watson. One, for Harry Potter, and two for HeForShe campaign. And the third one would have to be mum. She would kill me if I didn’t invite her. She’s my best friend, she’s really inspired me, and she supports me so much.  

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

Speak out. Not that I didn’t speak out before this year. I was doing things for women in Edinburgh, and that maybe was a small thing, but it created a movement around Scotland. Speak out. If you’re thinking it then probably someone else is as well. If you start to say it out loud, and say “hang on, there is a problem here” or “I think this needs to happen” then probably someone else is going to go “actually yes, I just didn’t want to speak out about it”. And it’s one of the things that I really realised since I did Equal Playing Field that there are all these other girls up there with me who all think something similar to me. So why are we not speaking out in Scotland about this movement? Because if we speak out about it, and the girl in Argentina speaks out about it, and the girl in Australia speaks out about it, we’re creating a global movement. If one person speaks out then surely someone else will as well.  

Find Vikki on Twitter @VikkiMAllan

Pictures courtesy of Vikki Allan

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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