Referee Profile | Jacqui Hurford (Née Melksham), Australia

The first of our profiles of the people we won’t mess with 18,000 ft up! Jacqui joins us from Australia and is managing our referees squad! A professional referee she officiated the opening match at the 2011 FIFA 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.

If you would like to sponsor Jacqui to help her inspire new generations of female referees please visit https://www.mycause.com.au/page/146697/help-jacqui-get-to-kilimanjaro

Jacqui Hurford (nee Melksham) at the FIFA World Cup 2011 — courtesy of www.focus.de

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d4moRT7jdA

For more information on the challenge see www.equalplayingfield.com

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