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international women's day: the officials' line - emma nicol 

Emma Nicol


7 March 2019 

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March every year and is a focal point in the movement of women’s rights.  This year’s campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. 

Athletics prides itself on being a gender balanced sport and our officials play a major part in achieving this, where currently there are 59% male and 41% female officials in the UK.  In support of International Women’s Day 2019, throughout March, we will feature Officials across the UK to celebrate them and their commitment to athletics.  

Emma Nicol

What is your role as an official?
I'm a Level 3 Field Official

How long have you been officiating?
I started officiating in 2016, so fairly recently.

What inspired you to become an official?
I'm aware that my route into officiating is an unusual one. I'm not a parent, coach, teacher, community group leader or ex-athlete. I simply always enjoyed watching and following athletics and on a visit to watch a Diamond League meeting in Birmingham in the summer of 2016 I saw the British Athletics Officials stand and went over to enquire how I could get involved. It went from there. I thought I'd be a track official but after investigating all of the different types of official roles, I became a Field Judge, which was unexpected. I had recently moved to the Midlands (end of 2015), moving up from the South Coast and it was a great way to get to know the area and meet new people.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into officiating?
It can seem daunting from the outside at first. There are many people who have been officiating for many years, but the officiating community is made up of really passionate people of all ages willing to share their experiences and expertise. It's a place where you can build new experiences and knowledge, expand your skills in communication, confidence and organisation and meet some like-minded people. The variety of roles, locations and types of competition is very broad and so it's far from dull!

In my short officials' career, I've learnt that an official can make such a huge difference to the athlete's experience and if you like athletics there's no better way to get a front row seat.

What has been the highlight of your officiating career?
As still a relative newbie, my highlights are many. The sheer variety of roles I've been involved in are always a highlight. From organising nervous and distracted athletes in a call room setting to the fast and furious updates of a scoreboard by the side of a high jump competition for the announcer and audience to keep up to date, to supervising a runway of a long jump competition to make sure safety is upheld as some of the athletes can pick up quite a speed.

What can we do as a sport to achieve a #BetterBalance in officiating?
In officiating there are no roles that are gender specific and the more we can show that this is the case the more we can address any imbalance. Starter, Technical Manager, Clerk of Course are all roles that can be seen potentially as largely populated by male officials, but I have met some amazing women in some of these roles. Teamwork is the overall key in officiating and it is a wonderful thing to be part of.

Find out more about International Women's Day here

If you want to get involved in officiating, find out more information here