Sports

AFL committed to ensuring a ‘safe, welcoming, inclusive’ environment for female umpires


The AFL says it is “committed to ensuring” females of all ages can take part in the game following the release of a report which detailed the horrific verbal and physical abuse female umpires have been exposed to.

A research paper sent to the AFL last year came to light this week which detailed the experiences of female umpires, who said the abuse they received from both peers and spectators made them reconsider their future in the sport.

One umpire said she quit because she was sexually abused.

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After leading journalist Caroline Wilson criticised the organisation’s “astounding” response to the research paper, telling Nine’s Footy Classified that none of the AFL executives had read it in full, despite first getting access to it in September last year.

“We are committed to ensuring that women and girls of all ages can take part in our game in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment, and while we have seen a doubling of the number of girls and women playing football since AFLW was introduced, we have not experienced a similar growth in the umpiring ranks,” an AFL statement read.

“To better understand this trend, we commissioned a report to look at all the elements that lead to girls and women continuing to be under-represented in umpiring at all levels.

“As part of that ‘Girls and Women in Australian Football Umpiring study’, current and former umpires were interviewed and provided valuable feedback on all the physical, cultural and environmental barriers that impacted the pathway for girls and women umpiring at community and the elite level.

“The important findings and recommendations of the report have formed the basis for a number of initiatives that have been included in the ‘Women and Girls Game Development Action Plan’ which is in its final stages of completion.

“The initiatives in the plan are designed to increase representation of women and girls in all parts or our game from players to umpires to coaches and administrators and are aimed at ensuring a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for women and girls, including to lift the number of women umpires to 40%.

“In order to achieve that growth, we will introduce a number of policy directives including developing and publishing the ‘Community football guiding principles for equity’, which will comprise initiatives such as umpiring appointments, access to multi-gender or shared space facilities, establishing female mentoring programs to accelerate the pathway for women and girls and helping to achieve more gender-balanced leadership in all community football leagues and clubs.

“The report has been a valuable resource for our team in prioritising the key initiatives to accelerate the growth in women and girls taking on umpiring roles across the country and ensuring we have a safe and welcoming pathway that allows women and girls to progress from community to AFL and AFLW level.”

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