Give to a worthy cause

Become a member

Show your support

Mentoring program

Fast-track your career

Research blows the whistle on female referee uniforms

New Victoria University (VU) research has found current sport officiating uniforms are male-centric and uncomfortable for women.

VU Susan Albert Women in Sport Chair, Professor Clare Hanlon, led the project which builds on previous work that successfully instigated national policy changes for women and girls playing in different sporting codes.

The VU team collaborated with the Susan Alberti Medical Foundation and Women Sport Australia, to survey 286 current officials (250) and non-officials (36) aged between 15 and 80 (average age of 33) from each Australian state and territory.

Summary of results:
– 61% of referees and umpires feel uncomfortable wearing their current uniform.
– 82% would feel more confident officiating if wearing their preferred uniform.
– Nearly two thirds of non-officials identified uniforms as a barrier to officiating.*

Preferred uniform considerations:
– Comfort and fit.
– Professional and identifiable.
– Choice and flexibility.
– Practical features.

*It is important to note harassment/discrimination, lack of flexibility, inadequate training and gender stereotypes were also recognised as barriers to officiating.

Professor Hanlon said to encourage more women into leadership roles in sport, officiating barriers need to be broken, our research shows uniforms are a key barrier.

“To disrupt norms, we heard pleas from women referees and umpires to remove unisex style uniforms, stop being dictated to on the length of shorts, impractical uniforms for the weather, and having to wear all white,” Professor Hanlon said.

Women Sport Australia President, Helena Dorczak, said the time was now for codes to update existing guidelines around officials’ uniforms.

“The barriers identified in this research are not insurmountable or unreasonable – granting them would be a significant step forward in retaining girls and women in officiating roles, and importantly, attracting them to it. The considerations this valuable research has identified should be no brainers for sporting codes at all levels and apparel suppliers to act upon,” Ms Dorczak said.

Philanthropist, businesswoman and long-time advocate for women in sport, Susan Alberti AC said the results of this study provided an opportunity to increase women’s participation in community sports.

“Through my foundation, I was thrilled to support such an important study, an extension of the game changing research already conducted by Clare and her team. I’m confident we will see the same impact with this as we have with sport uniform policy changes around the world.”

Read the industry summary report, here: What type of uniforms do women want to wear when they referee or umpire sport? National research insights from current officials and non-officials.

Latest News