EMILY Carney is a young football official on a mission – to become the first female referee in the Premier League.

The Morris Green-based psychology undergraduate was voted female referee of the year this season by the Lancashire Football Association.

After starting out five years ago in the Bolton and Bury District Football League, the 19-year-old has quickly risen through the ranks, being promoted to level five at the end of last season.

The former St Joseph's High School pupil, who is studying at the University of Manchester, spent last season as the only female referee in the West Lancashire League, while also acting as an assistant in Women's Super League Two – two tiers down from the top of the women's domestic game.

Carney's immediate ambition is to earn back-to-back promotions, which would allow her to referee in the Hallmark Security League, formerly the North West Counties.

But she looks to have the drive, determination and ability to go even further than that, a fact recognised at the Lancashire FA referees' awards night, when she was presented with the Natalie Walker Trophy – named after the region's top female referee, who currently runs the line in League One.

"Natalie is someone I have turned to in the past for help and advice when I have needed it," said Carney, who is one of 91 female officials registered with the Lancashire FA.

"It is great to have someone like her to look up to and to aspire to.

"I would like to follow Natalie and go as far as I can in the men's game.

"She is one of a handful of assistant referees in the Football League, but I prefer to be the one in the middle, taking control.

"I know it is not going to be easy, because in my experience men don't take too kindly to being told what to do by a woman, on the football pitch at least.

"But things are slowly changing and I would like to think one day I could be the first female referee in the Premier League."

Carney is no stranger to awards – two seasons ago she was voted referee of the year in the BBDFL and this year was named young referee of the season in the West Lancashire League.

The teenager has also officiated in a number of cup finals at the Macron and the County ground in Leyland, and is reaping the rewards of an early decision to put her efforts into officiating rather than pursuing a playing or coaching career.

"I have been playing football for nearly 10 years but always had it in my mind to either try out as a coach or referee," she said.

"The fact is, I'm not the most sympathetic of people, so I thought refereeing was something I was more suited to.

"I am thick-skinned, not a lot of things bother me, so that is obviously a quality that helps.

"But for me, communication is the most important thing. You have to be able to talk with the players and explain your decisions clearly.

"The biggest challenge is being a woman in what is still a male domain.

"I feel I have to try harder to win players and managers over so they accept me as a referee and trust the decisions I make.

"As the only female referee in the West Lancs League, players are still quite shocked to see me out there in the middle."

Long-standing Bolton official Albert Handley also won an award on the night, for services to grassroots refereeing.

The more than 140 guests were treated to a question and answer session with Premier League refs Anthony Taylor, Martin Atkinson, Neil Swarbrick and Jon Moss.

"They told us some great stories of their refereeing careers and were surprisingly funny," added Carney.

If you are interested in becoming a referee, email lewis.smith@lancashirefa.com or call the Lancashire FA on 01772 624000.