Five women rugby union referees who officiated in the New South Wales (NSW) suburban rugby union premiership were interviewed about their experiences refereeing men. After a comprehensive analysis of the interview transcripts, four themes emerged around barriers and challenges to women’s participation in officiating, these themes are: 1) Barriers experienced by women rugby union referees; 2) Success in refereeing male rugby union players; 3) Challenges of women participating in refereeing rugby union; 4) Ways to bring about change. The findings imply that there is discrimination and marginalization present in women’s sports officiating at male games which is in line with the literature in women’s sports coaching. The findings also suggest that women have to be superior and elite athletes with a history of success to be appointed to the best male rugby union matches. Support both on and off the field is crucial to the development and success of female referees.
The authors are with the Faculty of Education & Arts, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia.