Premier League referee quotes Dumbledore in trans row with JK Rowling

Lucy Clark - Premier League referee quotes Dumbledore in trans row with JK Rowling
Lucy Clark has been caught up in the middle of the row between Bobby Madley and JK Rowling - Getty Images/Alex Burstow

JK Rowling has been admonished by a Premier League referee for calling a transgender football manager, and former match official, a “straight, white, middle-aged bloke”.

Bobby Madley, a member of Professional Game Match Officials’ Select Group 2, called foul on the Harry Potter author after she mocked Lucy Clark being put in charge of Sutton United’s women’s football team in south London.

Rowling also responded to a report that she had “compared” Clark to a “straight, white, middle-aged bloke” by posting on X: “I didn’t compare him to one. He IS one.”

It was that post which prompted a reply from Madley, who quoted one of the lead characters in Harry Potter back at her.

“I’m pleased to say Lucy is a great ambassador, well respected within refereeing and most importantly a good, kind person,” he wrote.

“‘It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.’ – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.


Rowling, who has angrily denied bullying Clark, had mocked the former referee in response to a since-deleted post by LGBT charity Pride photograph of Clark holding a pink whistle and a red card.

The post said: “Lucy Clark, the world’s first openly transgender referee, has made history by becoming the first trans manager in the top five divisions of English women’s football.

“The former referee has taken over at Sutton United. FABULOUS!”

‘Women are under no obligation to applaud people caricaturing us’

Rowling wrote on X: “When I was young all the football managers were straight, white, middle-aged blokes, so it’s fantastic to see how much things have changed.”

After doubling down on her post, the author was criticised for mocking Clark, with some on social media accusing her of being cruel, but she gave them short shrift.

She said: “Calling a man a man is not ‘bullying’ or ‘punching down.’ Cross-dressing straight men are currently one of the most pandered-to demographics in existence, and women are under no obligation to applaud the people caricaturing us.”

Responding to another accusation of bullying, Rowling said: “You’re right. No demographic is more vulnerable and oppressed than large, tattooed cross-dressers who get plum jobs in women’s sport. I don’t know how I could have been so cruel.”

Lucy Clark - Premier League referee quotes Dumbledore in trans row with JK Rowling
Clark has said she is living her 'best life' despite the 'hate-fuelled transphobia'

In a post on X, Clark, 51, said: “Another day of hate-fuelled transphobia against me… but hey guess what I am living my best life. Wake up everyday with my beautiful family around me.

“Everyday I laugh and have things to look forward to. Who’s winning at life … the one who’s happy and smiling or those hating?”

Among those criticising Rowling’s response online was Caroline Litman said: “I’ve not met Lucy but my husband knows her wife.

“Lucy is a real person with a family, and a life to live. Bills to pay. What harm does her role as a football manager cause you? The team love her. Her wife and child love her. Your decision to pile on her is simply cruel.”

Only hours after Scotland’s controversial hate-crime laws were introduced last month, Rowling posted pictures of 10 high-profile trans people and ridiculed their claims to be women. She then challenged police to arrest her.

Police Scotland rejected the complaints against her under the new legislation, saying they did not meet the threshold for criminality.

Bobby Madley - Premier League referee quotes Dumbledore in trans row with JK Rowling
Bobby Madley was sacked by PGMOL in 2018 - Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

Madley’s rebuke of Rowling comes almost six years since he was sacked by PGMOL for filming a video appearing to mock a disabled person.

Mystery had surrounded his sudden 2018 relocation to Norway before he revealed the true reason for his exit, saying his actions had “destroyed my career, my reputation and caused immeasurable damage to my family life”.

In January 2020, he said he would “give anything” to make a return to refereeing in England and described his previous role in the Premier League as his “dream job”.

He added: “I am not proud of my actions in 2018 and I have learned from this and feel I am a better and stronger person for it.”

He made his comeback that February, working his way back up to the Premier League within three years, although he has only taken charge of two top-flight matches in that time, officiating primarily in the Championship.