Addressing gender equity in sport officiating

Back view of female referee holding up a card

The project will help sport organisations across Europe to put in place effective recruitment, retention and engagement policies for female sport officials, ultimately improving gender balance in the role.

  • 04 May 2021
  • 3 min read

A University of Portsmouth researcher is helping to raise the growth and participation of female sports officials in Europe.

Dr Tom Webb will lead the research phase of the WINS project, which aims to address gender equity in refereeing by researching the problems facing female sport officials and producing practical solutions that can support organisations responsible for their recruitment, retention and development.

The project will help sport organisations across Europe to put in place effective recruitment, retention and engagement policies for female sport officials, ultimately improving gender balance in the role.

Dr Webb, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management and founder and coordinator of the Referee and Match Official Research Network, said: “From grassroots participation, involving ordinary people at weekends, to elite international sport competitions with an audience of millions across the globe, sport would grind to a halt without sport officials. However, players and spectators also need sport officials who are representative of the wider population and to provide role models for all aspiring young people.

“WINS comes at a timely moment from a research perspective, there is a need to understand barriers to officiating for women and where previous interventions have worked or not worked so we can learn from that.”

Picture of Dr Tom Webb

From grassroots participation, involving ordinary people at weekends, to elite international sport competitions with an audience of millions across the globe, sport would grind to a halt without sport officials. WINS comes at a timely moment from a research perspective, there is a need to understand barriers to officiating for women and where previous interventions have worked or not worked so we can learn from that.

Dr Tom Webb, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management

Led by the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE), the three-year project was created with the International Federation for Sport Officials (IFSO) and brings together nine partners from six countries including two European sport federations, two national associations of sport officials, one national Olympic committee and two universities. WINS is funded through the Erasmus+ Sport programme of the European Union.

At the kick-off meeting last week, the partners agreed on the research phase of the project which will take place over the next 12 months and will include desk research/ systematic literature review, the first-ever Europe-wide, multi-sport survey of female sport officials at all levels, and interviews with administrators responsible for officiating.

The partners agreed that sharing good practice across sports will be a key outcome of the project. Charlotte Girard Fabre from IFSO said: “WINS is a vital project as females are an important part of the potential human resources for sport officiating, we need to look at obstacles which women face.”

Janie Frampton from Sports Officials UK said: “The biggest benefit of the project will be to give direction to sport organisations and fill their gap in knowledge in how to attract and keep female sport officials.”

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