Now into her 12th season of umpiring Australian Football, Katrina Stopinski is one of the most experienced umpires in Europe.
It’s not just the number of years that she has been umpiring for that makes her one of the most experienced and respected umpires in Europe, but it’s the commitment she gives to her role and the game of football that has got her to where she is now.
After umpiring in last weekends Euro Cup in Sweden, Kat has now umpired in a total of 10 countries, an incredible feat.
On top of that, since moving to London in 2017, she has umpired in three Champions League tournaments, three Euro Cups, two Haggis Cups, the Fitzpatrick Cup, inaugural St Petersburg Cup, AFL England National University League, CEAFL in Prague, and a range of other games around London and the UK.
With her role as Head of Umpiring in AFL London, she has been very busy this year, but the work she puts in is invaluable and her effort has been key to the umpiring department’s strength.
It’s clear to see why she is so well known across Europe and the UK, having been involved in so many games over the last couple of years.
Kat has been involved with footy for nearly as long as she can remember, but her umpiring career began 12 years ago.
“My involvement with footy began hanging out at my brother’s games, which eventually turned into being a water carrier, goal umpire, interchange steward, timekeeper, umpire escort, boundary umpire and sports trainer – pretty much any role you could fill, I’ve done it,” she said.
“Women’s football was still in its infancy, so when I finished school (the only place I ever played footy), I started umpiring as a part-time job.”
Kat went on to umpire for a number of years at a junior level before being asked to be part of a Reserves game in which the umpiring panel was all female. After that game, her umpiring coaches gave her some fantastic feedback, believing she could make the step up to umpire a Senior men’s game, which she did the following year, moving from Division 3 Reserves to Division 2 Seniors in one season.
She then umpired the highest junior age Grand-Final and the Division 1 Under 18 Grand Final and her pathway continued into the next year, umpiring at the National Under 18 Girls Championship where she umpired the Grand Final and was named Umpire of the Tournament.
A fantastic list of achievements, but for Kat, her ultimate goal for umpiring was achieved a few weeks after the Under 18 Girls National Championships, when she debuted in the Division 1 Seniors, becoming the first ever female field umpire to officiate at that level in her league.
According to Kat, the main reason she umpires is that it combines three of her favourite things: football, fitness and friends.
“You also have the best seat in the house being in the middle of the field!” She said.
She has also met some amazing people in the umpiring community and many of her close friends today have come from that group.
“Umpiring groups are just like footy clubs; we train, we work hard on game day, we have social functions and we aim to be on the field on the grand final day! Umpiring also requires a lot of teamwork, between field, goal and boundary umpires which I like as I have grown up participating in team sports,” she said.
With a goal to umpire in as many countries across the world as possible, anything seems possible to Kat as she aims to add to her already impressive list of achievements.
As one of the most accomplished umpires in Europe, Kat will continue to umpire where she can, when she can and is already looking forward to making it 11 countries to have umpired in when she travels to Switzerland in August.