In a bid to dramatically increase the number of women umpiring the AFL and AFLW, a new specialised umpiring school has been set up in Melbourne.
Six women have been selected to enter the new National Female Umpiring Academy, several of whom have already officiated at AFLW or state league levels.
Russell Davidson, who has previously managed a female field umpire program, will coach the new candidates.
Eleni Glouftsis, the first female field umpire at AFL level, will take up an ambassadorial role with the group.
Glouftsis made her 2018 debut in the weekend’s Essendon-Carlton match.
Despite the popularity of women’s football growing fast, and a 15 percent increase in the number of female umpires last year, there remains a big gap in the gender balance:
Of the 15,300 current Aussie Rules umpires, just 1,433 are female.
ALF Women’s boss Nicole Livingstone said the new program was not only a way to train more umpires, it was also the perfect way to encourage women to become involved in the game.
“We’ve seen in the last two years the difference the AFLW is having on women of all ages,” she said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see, and having AFLW in place has provided a role-model situation for girls in footy.”
Ms Livingstone said the program will train female umpires to be the best that they can be.
“They will be picked on their merits and there is no reason a girl who goes through this academy couldn’t end up umpiring an AFL or AFLW grand final one day,” she said.
Miles Heffernan from Discrimination Claims said the program targetting women was a great innovation for the code.
“The AFL is being really smart with this, by attracting more and more people to their fantastic code in all sorts of roles, and what better way to get more women involved than training them to be officials,” he said.
“We’ve seen lots of women umpire in the goal position, but the more we see on the field, the better.
“I can’t wait for the day when we see a female umpire bouncing the ball at the opening of an AFL Grand Final at the MCG – it’s only a matter of time.”
Ms Livingstone added that becoming an umpire offers an alternative way for women to become involved in the sport.
“Not everybody will get to play AFLW, they might not be an elite player,” she said,
“But they might think they can be an elite umpire.”
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