What's going on at the Australian Sports Commission?

Basketball official
Author:  Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 5 Number 2

Based on the outcomes of the Year of the Official and the recommendations of the Griffith University report Problems and Issues in the Recruitment and Retention of Sports Officials, the Australian Sports Commission will be maintaining a leadership role in assisting national sporting organisations to develop sustainable strategies to improve the recruitment, training and retention of officials. 


The Australian Sports Commission's Coaching and Officiating unit will be undertaking a number of Officiating initiatives in the period 2005-2008, including:

Officials Retention Initiative

Retaining sports officials is a vital component in maintaining and increasing levels of participation in organised sport. Research has indicated that abuse and harassment are not the only reasons that the number of sports officials is declining. Other reasons include lack of support from sport organisations, lack of clear career paths for sports officials or other organisational, cultural and social issues.

The Griffith University study concluded that:
there is a significant problem in the retention of officials, particularly inexperienced officials at the grass roots level of sport
national and state sporting organisations have little influence over the retention of sports officials at grass roots levels
the resources devoted by national and state sporting organisations to sports officiating are disproportionately low in comparison to coach and player development
the feedback provided to practising officials at the grassroots level is generally inadequate
there is an underlying assumption that all sports officials are seeking career advancement and this is not necessarily the case
the skills and abilities of sports officials’ coordinators is a key determinant in retention of sports officials at the local level.

Current situation
Following discussions with several sports to ascertain the most appropriate way of improving the retention of officials in sport, the development of a mentoring program was considered the most likely to provide immediate and quantifiable results. A pilot program will be conducted during 2005-06 in collaboration with selected national sporting organisations. Preliminary discussions have been held with two large national sporting organisations to prepare for the pilot program. Indications are that these sports will be able to run concurrent mentored and un-mentored officiating programs. State Coaching and Officiating Centres will assist in the administration of the pilot, which will be conducted in both metropolitan and regional areas. While the details are yet to be finalised, it is expected that the pilot will be conducted in four states and territories. 

It is anticipated that the results of the pilot will provide practical evidence of the benefits of mentoring. If these benefits are realised the pilot will form the basis of a mentoring program with an expanded group of sports in 2006-07 and 2007-08. 

The mentoring program will be the first project developed under the Officials Retention Initiative.

National Officiating Scholarship Program

An officiating scholarships pilot study commenced in early 2003, as a Year of the Official initiative. This officiating scholarship program was seen as being complementary to, and modelled on, the successful National Coaching Scholarship Program. In late 2003, the Minister for Sport, Rod Kemp, formally launched the program as part of the Year of the Official, with three sports involved in a pilot program. Based on a review of the pilot program, the National Officiating Scholarship Program became ongoing in March 2004, with seven sports awarded scholarships. The expansion of this program is in line with the Australian Sports Commission's increased emphasis on the development of officiating. 

The National Officiating Scholarship Program aims to assist in the development of potential high performance officials. The program is built on the desire to provide a future pathway for the officials upon completion of the scholarship.

With the Australian Sports Commission and national sporting organisations in effective partnerships, the program provides potential high performance officials with an intense learning program. The structure for this intense learning program is flexible to meet the individual needs of the sport and can vary from four to 52 weeks in duration. Officials are required to participate in hands-on officiating as well as undertake professional development activities, courses and upgrade their level of official accreditation. 

Current situation
In 2005 the ASC awarded scholarships to 18 officials from 15 sports. Of these officials, ten are working towards international accreditations. Applications for the 2006 scholarships have now closed. It is anticipated that a similar number of scholarships will be awarded.

Update on the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme

The National Officiating Accreditation Scheme was established in January 1994 to assist national sporting organisations to develop a group of skilled officials. The Scheme aims to develop and implement programs that improve the quality, quantity, leadership and status of sports officiating in Australia. National Officiating Accreditation Scheme training programs include the following components:
general principles courses
sport-specific courses
officiating practice.

Current situation
There are approximately 165 courses registered with the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme in the 40 member national sporting organisations. Approximately 9,000 officials are accredited through these sports. As Australian Sports Commission initiatives are implemented and the awareness of the Scheme is raised, the number of national sporting organisations seeking entry to the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme will increase, and the number of accredited officials is anticipated to double in the next few years.

Through its Coaching and Officiating Unit Consultants, the Australian Sports Commission will provide assistance to recognised national sporting organisations to establish officiating structures and develop or refine new and existing training programs to facilitate entry to the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme. Discussions with national sporting organisations revealed the need to emphasise including and enhancing communication, people management and managing the competitive environment components of the training programs. This emphasis is also consistent with the Griffith University research which indicated that officials need greater training in these areas.

No results were found