The AFL has apologised after a damning report about the fkd treatment of women and non-binary umpires in the sport at state and community levels came to light.
The report was commissioned by the AFL and conducted by the University of Sydney. It was published back in August 2021 but was only made public this week after it was shared by The Herald Sun.
It’s called “Girls and women in Australian football umpiring: Understanding registration, participation and retention” and it comes in at a whopping 62 pages long. 26 female and one non-binary umpire contributed to the report.
The report includes multiple harrowing stories of sexual harassment, racism and discrimination from coaches, fellow umpires and game spectators.
One of the state-league umpires said they were sent nudes by other umpires and said fellow umpires would “inappropriately touch” them during games. They ultimately quit umpiring at that level. According to the umpire, coaches didn’t help.
“The coaches could have called out some of the inappropriate comments at training if they heard them,” they said.
“This would indicate to female umpires that the environment wasn’t the boys club we were used to and that those sort of inappropriate remarks weren’t tolerated.”
Another umpire said they quit after they were subject to verbal abuse by a spectator.
“A supporter yelled out, ‘Why don’t you open your eyes instead of your legs, you stupid slut!’” they said. According to the umpire, they took it to the league but the supporter didn’t even get fined.
The AFL’s first female field umpire Eleni Glouftsis wrote a foreword for the report.
“In reading this research, I felt frustrated that girls and women in umpiring roles are still facing the same obstacles and challenges that I faced almost 16 years ago,” she said.
“I had hoped things would have improved. They certainly should have.”
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There were a couple of recommendations in the report, including education initiatives and a centralised tool for people to report discrimination or harassment.
Former AFLW umpire and report author Dr Victoria Rawlings said she wasn’t aware if the AFL had actually made any moves to address the findings of the report, as per the ABC.
According to the report, “gender plays a key role in experiences umpiring”. It highlights the fact that umpiring is dominated by men both logistically and culturally.
“Overwhelmingly, this study has demonstrated that girls and women in umpiring navigate experiences where they are indirectly or directly told that they do not belong or deserve to be in umpiring,” it found.
“While at its best, umpiring provides participants with greater social, physical and mental health, this report demonstrates that gender plays a significant role in constraining those benefits.”
The AFL responded to the stories in the report.
Kylie Rogers, the AFL’s acting chief executive, released a statement about the report on Monday. She said it contained 11 recommendations and those have “formed the basis for action on ensuring change in our pathways and programs”.
“There was key detail in the main body of the report that outlined some extremely negative and unacceptable experiences for some of our female umpire members, which has drawn considerable focus and attention as it should,” she said.
“I want to make clear on behalf of the AFL that those incidents and those behaviours are wholly unacceptable.”
Rogers then issues an apology on Tuesday.
“On behalf of the game we apologise to any woman who suffers harassment or sexism of any kind, and would encourage them to report it to their local club, to their league or to the AFL itself,” she said, as per the ABC.
“We’ll continue to do our best, we need to continue to invest in gender-friendly facilities, we need to look at more education and we need to review our policies and procedures and we will continue to work day and night until it is safe and welcoming and inclusive,” Rogers continued.
Yeah, I fkn hope so. If there’s one thing the report confirms, it’s that the AFL has a long way to go before it’s truly inclusive of women and non-binary umpires.