Wimbledon Moves Towards Greater Diversity as First Ever Woman to Referee is Announced

History beckons ahead of Wimbledon 2023 as former tennis player Denise Parnell is set to be named as the first ever woman to referee in the tournament’s 125 year history.

Parnell is set to replace Gerry Armstrong as the top official when the tournament starts on the 3rd of July. Parnell, a player in the 80s made a single appearance in the once heavily male-dominated grass-court event.

The 62 year old joins a new look Wimbledon “women take-over” after Sally Bolton became the first female chief executive in 2020 and recently former Director of Sport at the 2012 Olympics Debbie Jevans was announced as the club’s next chair.

The referee makes the big calls in matches as the highest official in a tournament. She will supervise all aspects of the tournament, that includes managing the draws and schedules, administer the rules and ensuring that the tournament runs efficiently and fairly.

Parnell is no stranger to the referees seat, she has worked with the former referee Armstrong since 2006 after acquiring the International Tennis Federation Silver Badge to referee.  In the same year, she was awarded the highest qualification of ITF Gold Badge Referee, which is held by fourteen women out of the fifty Gold Badge holders across the world.

The latest appointment of Parnell is a positive step towards equalising the gender landscape of the tournament.

Most recently changes to Wimbledon’s controversial all-white rules were announced after the 2022 edition. Under the current guidelines, the room for movement is minimal with it stating: “Undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration) must also be completely white except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre.”

The change will comes into effect in 2023 and onwards and will also impact the bras female players can wear as the All England Club moves towards greater diversity.

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