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Lucy Clark blazes a new trail from referee to team manager

England’s first trans referee returns to her roots in the dugout as the country’s first trans manager.

Lucy Clark, shown here as manager of TRUK United FC, takes the reins at the women’s team of Sutton United.
TRUK United FC

A passion for soccer and a passion for making positive change drives Britain’s Lucy Clark.

She was the English Football Association’s first-ever transgender referee, and started an inclusive club dedicated to bringing trans and non-binary people into the sport and onto the pitch.

On January 24, she made more history as the newly-hired manager for Sutton United Women FC in the fifth-tier London & South East Regional Women’s Premier Division.

Clark’s appointment makes her the first-ever out trans manager in English competitive football.

The move is not just historic but also sentimental for Clark. She’s a lifelong supporter of Sutton United.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said in an interview after her first match as manager, a 3-1 loss to league-leading Fulham, Sunday. “I was managing Sutton on my computer games and now I’m doing it in real life.

“I’m living the dream. I love the club and I love everyone around the club so just to be involved is amazing.”

For Clark, soccer is life and she has been quoted as saying that the game saved her life. She coached her first team at age 16, and has previously been a manager for a men’s non-league club.

In 2018, already a licensed referee, Clark came out publicly as trans and declared that she wanted to stay in the game.

She is also the founder-player-manager of TRUK United FC. The team was purpose-built to bring trans players into the game and has grown to be highly competitive in grassroots and charity leagues across the U.K.

In 2022, TRUK United fielded the first all-trans women team, with Clark as a player-manager, to play against an all-cis women’s league team in a friendly match.

This past year, the club made further history by fielding a first-ever all-transgender male side in a match against an all-cisgender male team.

Clark (10) said managing TRUK United got her thinking of making a return as a full-time manager
Lucy Clark

Her experiences building and leading TRUK United led her to consider a return as a manager on a semi-professional league sideline.

“I was looking and waiting for the right opportunity and this would have been top of my list,” Sutton told Outsports Wednesday. “When the opportunity unexpectedly arose, I had to go for it and it was always going to be a yes if I was offered the job.”

Like any other manager across England’s pyramid, Clark’s attention is on the next opponent with an eye on the overall table. Heading into this Sunday’s match with Millwall, Sutton stands ninth in the league with 4 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw — 6 points ahead of the relegation line.

Clark believes the team has the tools to win matches, move up the standings, and avoid relegation. The new manager also sees this next step forward as another way to send a needed message to an often-maligned trans community in the U.K.

She has been the target of the nasty brand of transphobia Britain has been known for in recent years, but won’t let it dampen her enthusiasm.

“Just because you are transgender, you shouldn’t have dreams or stop doing something that you love or have a passion for,” Clark noted.

“Life is short and spending your time hating on people who are just trying to live their lives is a waste of their time on earth. They should all get a new hobby that brings them joy.”