Referee Profile | Jacqui Hurford (Née Melksham), Australia

Jacqui joins us from Australia and is managing our referees squad! A professional referee she officiated the opening match at the 2011 World Cup in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin with a crowd of 74 000! Here she tells us what it’s been like as a woman in black and why she is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to break a world record.

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When I saw a game of football for the first time aged 9, let’s just say it was love at first sight, I was hooked. By the following week I had my $2 second-hand boots on though I can still recall the coach’s first words to me: ‘If girls want to play football, they have to play in the backline’!

As a young female referee coming through the ranks of local football, there was a constant battle with the male players and the spectators. Essentially, they thought that a woman’s place was either in the kitchen or between a man’s legs. It takes strong will and a thick skin to deal with this week in, week out. Some battles you win, some you may lose. But it’s the love of the game that keeps me coming back.

I grew up in a single parent family. My mother is my biggest inspiration and the strongest person I know. From her I learnt how to be strong, stand on my own two feet, fight for what I believe in and hard work.

But I had really been struggling of late whether to continue my journey in this beautiful sport. Meeting like-minded women through Equal Playing Field showed me that I was not alone in the everyday fight for equality.

The main issue women officials have is similar to players - simply making a living. There is one full-time elite referee coach but he is dedicated to training the male referees. Meanwhile I have done that same role for the last two seasons with only a small amount of remuneration. I am essentially a volunteer. I am hoping that will change for the next season.

Equality for me is getting the same recognition, remuneration and respect that the men do at all levels. It will be a great day when we are all recognized as football players, referees, coaches etc. and gender does not come into it.

I have been lucky enough to see a lot of the world through football, with lots of laughs, adventures and new experiences along the way. I have met many fantastic people who have enriched my life in many ways. I hope when I instruct, coach and assess, I inspire the girls/women around me to be the best they can be. If I want change in this sport, it starts with me and I hope that has a domino effect on others.

Want to know more about Jacqui? See this interview with Football Brisbane