Australian Federal Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp, yesterday launched the Year of the Official, a national campaign aimed at arresting the decline in volunteer participation and ensuring the future growth of grassroots and junior sport.
Launching the Year of the Official at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Senator Kemp said the campaign was about reducing abuse of sports officials such as umpires, referees and judges, recognising their invaluable contribution, and increasing their participation rate.
"One of the biggest challenges facing grassroots sport is recruiting and, most especially, retaining officials.
Despite undertaking successful recruitment campaigns, nearly all sports say they are only just managing to maintain their overall number of officials."
Research clearly indicates the most common reasons why officials quit is the high level of abuse they receive and a lack of respect for their role in sport,"
Senator Kemp said.
Australian Sports Commission figures demonstrate that 95 per cent of this abuse is verbal, with 22 per cent coming from coaches, 37 per cent from athletes, 19 per cent from spectators, and 17 per cent from parents.
"This is a very big problem-one which threatens the future growth of grassroots and junior sport,"
the Minister said.
"As evidence of seriousness of the problem and the need for it to be tackled head on, seven key national sporting organisations will today also sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Australian Sports Commission,"
Senator Kemp said.
The MOU will help guide Year of the Official activities and initiatives by the Sports Commission, state departments of sport and recreation and the seven national sporting organisations.
"The Australian Cricket Board, Australian Football League, Australian Rugby League, Australian Rugby Union, Basketball Australia, Netball Australia, and Soccer Australia-have thrown their support behind the Year of the Official campaign by signing the MOU, and I welcome that support."
During 2003, the Sports Commission along with state departments of sport and recreation, and national sporting organisations will undertake a social education and awareness program to begin changing community attitudes towards officials.
In 2001, ISAF supported "The Year of the Volunteer" an IOC initiative designed to recognise the achievements of volunteers in sports and their contribution to growth at grassroots level. Alain Alcindor (SEY) was awarded the title of ISAF Volunteer of the year for his level of dedication to the sport over a number of years.
Further details on the Australian Year of the Official are available on the website below.