AFL savaged over 'disturbing' response to female umpire revelations

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Chelsea Roffey and Eleni Glouftsis, pictured here umpiring in the AFL.
AFL umpires Chelsea Roffey and Eleni Glouftsis were interviewed for the report. Image: Getty

A number of leading commentators have savaged the AFL for their response to a damning report detailing some of the awful experiences of female umpires in the sport.

On Sunday, The Herald Sun published the 62-page report titled 'Girls and women in Australian football umpiring: Understanding registration, participation and retention'.

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The report was commissioned and paid for by the AFL last August, however it wasn't made public and only came to light this week.

The report, compiled by the University of Sydney, contained interviews with 27 umpires - including AFL-level officials Chelsea Roffey and Eleni Glouftsis.

It detailed instances of sexual harassment, exclusion, abuse and inappropriate change-room behaviour.

“The worst part is with people who don’t wait for you to leave or sort yourself out [in the change-rooms]. Old guys or old umpires just strip and they don’t give a s***," one umpire said.

Glouftsis, who became the AFL's first female field umpire in 2017, said: “While umpiring juniors through to state league level, I’ve worn uniforms that don’t fit, used change-rooms that impose segregation and have had my ability to perform questioned due to my gender by spectators, players, coaches, the media, umpiring peers and umpiring coaches”.

Roffey, the first female to serve as goal umpire in an AFL grand final, said: “Looking back, scenarios that related to my gender ranged from those I regarded as innocuous, waved away as signs of ignorance rather than ill-intent, through to those that made my blood boil.

“My response at each stage was carefully considered, a matter of playing the game and choosing battles wisely. This research legitimises and reflects many of the thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced.”

Eleni Glouftsis, pictured here in action during a game between Richmond and Western Bulldogs in 2021.
Eleni Glouftsis in action during a game between Richmond and Western Bulldogs in 2021. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

AFL slammed over 'disturbing' response

Acting AFL chief executive Kylie Rogers responded to the damning claims on Monday, admitting the league should have released the findings publicly.

“While the report was widely distributed across AFL and academic circles and was provided to those umpires for part, it had not been publicly released as we focused on the recommendations and developing policies and initiatives based on the report’s findings and the AFL accepts that we could have shared the report publicly while that policy development process is underway,” Rogers wrote to key stakeholders, including the 18 AFL clubs.

Addressing the issue on Monday, Melbourne great Garry Lyon said: “It makes you sick to the stomach, when you read what some of these women have had to go through as they pursue their careers in umpiring.

“Had this come to light in August, we all would’ve been shocked and horrified with what we’d seen and the pressure comes to bear and they get this right.

“It’s no cover-up, but surely they had to get out there and say: ‘This is hard to read but this is what we need to address.’”

Kylie Rogers, pictured here speaking to the media in Melbourne in 2021.
Kylie Rogers speaks to the media in Melbourne in 2021. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Veteran reporter Caroline Wilson made the staggering claim that no one at the AFL actually read the report properly.

“The AFL commissions a report into the shortage of women umpires and then fails for seven months to actually read the report - it sounds like a bad scene from Utopia or Yes Minister,” Wilson said on 'Footy Classified'.

“The damning revelations, first revealed in the Herald Sun, actually sat in the laptops of senior AFL and other personnel, including officials from umpiring, football and development, since preliminary final day last year. And what an underwhelming public response from the AFL communications team this morning.

“Because the academics who actually wrote the report buried the lead and the more hideous revelations were pages in, nobody of any influence at head office actually saw red flags flying.

“Teenage girls forced to share changing rooms with middle-aged men, women umpires verbally abused and sexually harassed.

"I actually believe the AFL when they say they didn‘t conceal this report or tried to bury it, but equally disturbing is the fact that nobody cared enough about this women’s issue to actually have a look at it.”

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