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international women's day: officials - irene foletti 

Irene Foletti

30 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.  

Irene Foletti 

What is your role as an official?
I am a Level 1 Field Official.

How long have you been officiating?
Since 2016. 

What inspired you to become an official?
When my daughter was competing in T&F events, as a spectator, I felt happy to help the volunteer officials in all the hard work they were doing to make the day a success. There were no other officials in my club that I knew of that's what made me offer my help in raking the sand pits, retrieving implements and helping measure long jump.  I think that parents, carers and members of athletics clubs should be encouraged to help at events. I really enjoy meeting new people and have made new friends as a result of being a volunteer field official.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into officiating?
Helping officiate is exciting and challenging. It gives you a chance to learn new skills, and help develop yourself and it is both confidence building and very rewarding both emotionally and physically. I feel that officiating is accessible and offers people the opportunity to visit different places and work as a team in a very supportive environment.

What has been the highlight of your officiating career?
The highlight of being a field official was that I helped officiate at the British Universities and Colleges sports indoor championships on 16/17 February 2019 at the prestigious EIS Indoor arena in Sheffield. It was so professionally organised and I learnt valuable new skills in top level field officiating in horizontal and vertical jump events. I felt a great deal of pride in being part of a great team that helped run the event smoothly for the athletes.

What can we do as a sport to achieve a #BetterBalance in officiating?
I believe more can be done to encourage volunteer officials by asking athletics clubs to share information more regularly to interested people. 

  • ask clubs to nominate their officials to champion the idea of attending an official’s training course, and to accompany the interested person to offer support and advice. 
  • Information from England Athletics needs to be made more user-friendly, easy to understand and less ‘officious’. 
  • I think people are hesitant to come forward as they lack knowledge and are wary of it being complicated/pressured. 
  • Leaflets showing clear and easy to follow training/mentoring details in becoming an official would be great.

Find out more about International Women's Day here

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