Susannah Taylor – Behind the Stripes!

Each year female participation in American Football seems to rise exponentially. As seen with the introduction of the Sapphire Series, the success of the GB Women’s squad and ever more women’s teams being founded…

At the Saints we have had a record number of enquiries from women wanting to give American Football a shot and actually saw several of them take the field during our preseason, an exciting first for the Saints that we will endeavour to build on.


However, football is about far more than just the players. For the majority of the game all eyes are on the two teams battling it out, but in key moments the spotlight falls on the third team on the field. The officials.

The NFL have just announced their first female official who will take the field in 2015, Sarah Thomas, and the Saints first game will be presided over by a 6-man – 1 woman crew.

We caught up with Susannah Taylor who will be part of the officiating crew when the Saints host the Torbay Trojans on 12th April for our 2015 season opener!


1. How long have you been a BAFRA Official for?

“I qualified with BAFRA in 2014 so am excited about officiating for a second full season at senior and junior level.”

2. What made you start?

I’ve been an American football fan since the early 90’s and never thought I’d have the chance to get involved. I saw a feature on officiating in the NFL game programme in 2013 and followed up on that.

BAFRA Official - Susannah Taylor - photo courtesy of Garry Charles
BAFRA Official – Susannah Taylor – photo courtesy of Garry Charles

3. What would you say is your highlight so far?

No single event stands out – I enjoy being there to provide a service. The joy for me comes from being in place to make the critical call on the goal line and appreciate great performances from individuals and teams.

4. What is the most difficult part?

Remembering all the rules! There are so many of them with exceptions on exceptions. I work with great teams of officials who have seen it all and the structure is such that the correct call and enforcement can be applied every time.



5. Which NFL team do you support?

I’m a Titans fan – from the days of Jeff fisher and Steve “air” McNair.

6. What is your ultimate goal in Officiating football?

I’d love to see great participation in contact sport from all walks of life. If one day I can referee a women’s contact 11 aside EFAF/IFAF (European Federation of American Football/International Federation of American Football) final in the UK I’d consider it a great victory for the sport. We are on the road to this possibility and my part will be to earn my place on that field.

7. Other than Officiating, what hobbies/sports do you do?

I enjoy running and recently completed a half marathon in 2:06 and supported Place2Be – a children’s mental health charity in my fundraising efforts.

8. Number one reason for someone to take up officiating football?

We need you! 180-ish officials in UK is not sufficient to cover all contact games let alone all flag events. Officiating is a great way to give back especially if you are able but too injured to play (a basic level of fitness is required but obviously less than playing). I’d love to see more young officials too, I’d suggest officiating if you’d like to develop team or leadership skills which could be of value in other working environments. The BAFRA organisation is an incredible supportive network manned by utterly committed people who will support you every step of the way.

9. If you could officiate a game between any two teams, which would they be and why?

Interesting question, I love London Blitz for their ferocious offence. I was on umpire for a game last summer and I was glad when they scored, I could have a breather for a few plays! I want to officiate at Ipswich. They won an award for the best pitch. It’s geeky but we do enjoy working on a field that actually has 9yrd marks!


10. Do you find it hard to watch football as a fan now, without officiating the game in your head?

Tell me about it. Having said that I find I have more to watch in an otherwise dull game (eg a blow-out) that the average fan because I’m considering the nuances of the Back Judge’s signals for example.

11. What is the worst call you’ve ever seen made (either NFL or domestic)

Easy – Ed Hochuli blowing a play dead that was a fumble recovered by the defence and returned a significant distance (2008 Chargers-vs-Broncos). Ed is one of the greatest officials of all time in any sport – fair, knowledgeable, articulate, and generally right, just that one call – ooft!

12. Do you think that soccer could learn a thing or two from AF in terms of respect and the referee being able to change their minds and review decisions with video evidence?

Yes, every sport should be looking at other sports to consider learning opportunities. I’m not a soccer fan so cannot comment specifically.

13. If you could change one rule, which one would it be and why?

Unsportsmanlike Conduct for dancing celebrations. Don’t make me throw that flag – I’ll do it and I won’t enjoy it!



Thanks to Susannah for taking the time to chat with us and give us an insight into the mind of an official. We would urge anyone who is even remotely thinking about being an official to check out BAFRA’s website here:

We’ll see Susannah in action for our home opener on 12th April against the Torbay Trojans. Come support us on the sidelines as American Football finally returns to Oxford!

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