Out of bounds: the treatment of women umpiring AFL

The growth in women playing AFL is not matched by numbers umpiring – there are reasons for that

In AFL umpires share rooms and resources, regardless of gender – which is one problem for women, as Victoria Rawlings (Uni Sydney) and Damian Anderson (community- researcher) discovered in focus-groups and interviews *

They found, in part:

* selection for games: it isn’t always on merit, rather there are, “discourses that consistently minimise female ambition, passion and skill and establish a ‘common sense’ attitude that boys and men are more deserving of success in umpiring”

* facilities: initiatives to give women their own change rooms were well intended,  but “they failed to make girls and women feel included in umpiring communities, and instead made them feel further excluded as a minority”

* gender-based harassment: includes two major forms, “relating to ability” and sexual harassment

“ While the AFL has indicated willingness to integrate women into the football world, there is considerable work to be done in the realm of officiating. The institutional and cultural misogyny demonstrated in this research indicates that these initiatives are at best optimistic in their current form,” they conclude.

The paper needs to be read throughout football – which is probably why the work “was supported” by the Australian Football League. Good-o but the 50 free copies provided by the publisher will surely not be enough to get the message out.

* Victoria Rawlings and Damian Anderson, “Girls and women in umpiring: retention and participation limited by hostile cultural contexts” Sport, Education and Society (June 13)