Women in Umpiring

Emma Shelbourne smaller
Despite the latest Sport England ‘Active People Survey’ finding that 74% of sporting officials across the country are men, it seems it is not just participation where hockey has gender equality.

Over the last two years England Hockey data shows that 44% of L1 Umpire Course attendees were women. That is nearly double the proportion of women compared to the national average.

In order to celebrate these figures we are sharing the stories of four female umpires across all levels of the game who we hope will inspire you to take up the whistle.

Despite being just 17, earlier this year Elise Charlton from Derby was handed the opportunity to take charge of the In2Hockey Finals as part of the England Hockey young umpire development programme.

“To umpire the U13s Schools Girls’ final was a great privilege and  reward for the practice and help that I have had through the Midlands Young Umpire Group and my club,” she said. Elise has now gone to umpire in the East Midlands Prem men’s league and is hoping to be put forward to do Midland's ladies regional leagues after Christmas.  

Another female umpire who is very grateful to her regional colleagues is Annette Golding. After falling in love with the sport while growing up in her native Jamaica, Annette first undertook a L1 course in 2005 while playing at Blackheath.

Yet despite being told she had the talent to umpire at another level, it was not until three years ago that she decided to give up the game to concentrate solely concentrate on officiating and, with the help of her colleagues at the Kent Hockey Umpiring Association, is now a qualified L2 umpire. 

Karen Fynn umpire
Karen Fynn in action

On the other hand Karen Fynn has raced up the levels and has already passed her L3 assessment despite taking up umpiring just three years ago. 

She can now be found officiating Investec Women’s National Conference fixtures - a level in which she found herself in during her playing career - and is very glad she made the decision to take up umpiring after quitting the game, despite initial reservations.

“I began by feeling a little embarrassed to tell people what I was doing instead of playing; to use a Harry Potter analogy, a little like I was going to join the Death Eaters,” she recalled. 

“As it is now, I feel like we’re a group of Aurors – defending the game against the dark arts!

“I always thought that umpiring would be a lonely business, but it really isn’t.  There is great team work between umpires and so much support from mentors, coaches and assessors.  The higher the level, the more this appears to be the case.”

Our final inspirational umpire is Emma Shelbourn, who has been appointed to officiate at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next April.

It has been a long journey to this point for Emma – who is also a teacher – but with the help of many, including colleagues at Skegness Grammar School, she will travel to Australia and take charge of some of hockey’s biggest teams.

“Being an umpire allows me to enjoy world class games in the fast lane, on the front row seat,” she said. 

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been selected, but luck in my eyes is a combination of hard work, sacrifice and dedication. I can't wait to get to Australia and contribute to a small part of Commonwealth history.”

If you have been inspired by these women and want to get involved then make sure you head over to our Hockey Hub by clicking here.