League welcomes first female umpire for 16 years
The Sussex Premier Cricket League will have it's first female panel umpire in 16 years next season.
Fiona Richards, 45, will officiate matches in the restructured league.
And Richards believes there’s no reason why women can’t be umpiring at a much higher standard in men’s cricket.
Originally hailing from the west of Scotland, this wasn’t an obvious career path taken by Richards, but nonetheless it is something she has enjoyed doing having relocated to Sussex. She is currently completing the Level 1A course, before moving on to the Level 2 course in 2017.
Her interest in the laws of the game began her eventual signing up for the course. On her getting in to the role, Richards said: “An interest in the intricacies of the laws led me to do the level 1 course and I enjoyed that so I put myself up for some umpiring. It all started with a challenge over the ten modes of dismissal, not including retired out for the benefit of the picky out there; once I’d got through that I wanted to know more.”
Currently umpiring mid league games across mid and east Sussex and friendly Sunday games with a couple of nomadic teams, Richards believes that the lack of women’s umpire even in the women’s game is something that needs to be addressed, but also says that female umpires should be able to break in to the men’s game. “While I don’t think that only women should umpire the women and men the men, I think there’s a huge gap in the fact that there are no female umpires at the higher end of the women’s game and I think that’s something we should be looking to improve. That being said, if men are umpiring Class A women’s cricket, there’s no reason women can’t umpire Class A men’s.”
Becoming the first female umpire on the panel since 2000 hasn’t phased Richards, praising the conduct and the attitude of the teams that she has umpired. “I haven’t had any issues so far, other than total lack of facilities at some of the more rural grounds, but I’ve always turned up prepared. I find the players supportive and encouraging.”
Her highlights so far as an umpire include the interactions she has had with players when making what may be seen as contentions calls. “I’ve gained the confidence to fess up when I’ve made a poor call and the extremely positive reception from players when you do. A lot of the time the players aren’t 100% clear on the laws so they might have a judgement on what’s happened and it’s a case of putting the facts into the context of the laws and, if necessary post match, explaining why something happened or didn’t.”
Richards also actively encouraged cricket lovers to take up the opportunity to take part in this role. Although the role may be challenging to start, it is not impossible for people to pick up. Listing the attributes of what makes a good umpire, Richards said “The ECB ACO very kindly provides you a list when you embark on Level 1. The focus is very much on match management, so really the skills of any decent manager. You need the ability to understand the various aspects of what’s happening, an ability to think on your feet, assertiveness without being boorish. A sense of humour helps as well.”