Meet the first female chair of Ballarat's footy umpires association

Justin Davey and Deborah Sleep. Picture: Kate Healy.
Justin Davey and Deborah Sleep. Picture: Kate Healy.

Deborah Sleep is keen to grow the participation rates of female whistle-blowers and provide them with equal opportunity to progress to the elite level as part of her new role with the Ballarat Football Umpires Association.

Sleep has just been elected as the first female chairperson of the BFUA across its 107-year history.

She replaces the outgoing Justin Davey.

The association is currently made up of about 10 per cent females, a figure Sleep intends to grow during her tenure.

"Growing up, netball and footy was the social spirit of my community, so now to be able to give back in this way is a real honour," Sleep said.

"Our organisation aims to be totally reflective of the football community. It is important that we grow the number of female umpires and provide equal opportunities for them to progress to the AFL.

"I aim to connect with all members and stakeholders of the BFUA to ensure we continue to deliver a professional and valuable service to our football communities. We will work hard to grow our numbers to meet the ever-increasing demands on local football umpires."

Originally from Manangatang in the state's north west, Sleep has been involved in sport her entire life. Her background is in netball where she has held a range of club, association and regional roles including umpiring, coaching and administrative positions.

Sleep has been part of committees including the Victorian Netball League, UB Ballarat Pride and ACU Sovereigns.

She was previously the secretary of the Northern Mallee Netball Association over a 10-year period where she had responsibility for umpires across the region. During the same time, she served on the Victorian Netball Council as the regional representative for north west Victoria.

On the football scene, Sleep has previously been engaged with the North Ballarat Football Club as marketing manager and has served two years on the board of the Ballarat Football Umpires Association prior to taking on the top role of chairperson.

Davey was pleased to pass over the reins to Sleep.

"Deb has demonstrated a strong ability to provide governance and leadership to the BFUA during her time on the board and I trust she will make a significant impact on the culture during her time as chair," he said.

"In the past, football umpiring has been a bit of a blokey environment, much like footy clubs. But with the rise in female football, we want to develop a female-friendly culture which enables females to participate in a different way. This election demonstrates that females are welcome and promoted in the BFUA.

"Deb's ability to see what a person's strength is, and work with that, will be an asset as she leads the BFUA going forward. It is a well-deserved appointment and I would like to wish her all the best in her new role."

This story Meet the first female chair of footy umpires association first appeared on The Courier.