The ECB Association of Cricket Officials (ACO) is set to launch a new female officiating project to encourage more women and girls to become active umpires and scorers in the game.
Worcestershire are already playing an active role with having Dawn Pugh as their official first team scorer for all home and away matches.
But the ECB ACO, which currently stands as the largest group of cricket officials in the world, has just six per cent of females amongst its 7,800 members.
The new campaign, which will be unveiled at the end of 2014, sets out to target the recruitment, development and deployment of more female officials across all levels of the game.
In addition to simply encouraging more women and girls to get involved with officiating in recreational cricket, the project will specifically aims to identify and support talented female umpires through a bespoke development pathway, with the overall aim of preparing them for international match appointments.
As part of the officiating recruitment drive, England women’s cricketers Tammy Beaumont, Natasha Farrant and Laura Marsh pitted their own umpiring skills against each other and Hawk-Eye ball tracking technology in the MCC Cricket Academy last week.
During the session at Lord’s, the players took it in turns to make a series of tricky LBW decisions, before heading up to the performance analysis suite to see exactly how many the Hawk-Eye technology projected that they got right.
They were joined on the day by current ACO umpires Janet Rogers and Sophie Mclelland, who offered tips and guidance, before putting their own decision making to the test.
Speaking about the ACO’s push to recruit more female officials, England women’s all-rounder, Laura Marsh, said: “The Hawk-Eye session was really enjoyable and gave us all a real insight into just how difficult it is for umpires to make such quick and close decisions under pressure.
"It has certainly been a learning experience, and I have the utmost respect for the likes of Janet and Sophie who give up their spare time to umpire, ensuring that thousands of matches run smoothly across the country every weekend during the summer.
“As a player, women’s cricket has developed almost beyond recognition since my international career started over eight years ago, and it is fantastic to hear that the ECB ACO is now instigating a clear strategy to encourage more women and girls to get involved with, and progress along, the officiating pathway.”
ECB’s Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships, Mike Gatting, added: “Over the last ten years, tremendous progress has been made at all levels of the women’s game in England – from record numbers participating at the grassroots to the England women’s team now operating as fulltime professional cricketers.
"However, there is a big gap when it comes to the number of women and girls taking on officiating roles, particularly as umpires out in the middle.
“The ECB ACO is working hard to address this gap, and through a range of local and national initiatives that will be launched over the next year, it is hoped that there will be significantly more female officials involved at all levels of cricket in the coming seasons.”