John Pickles flies the flag for inclusive officiating

John Pickles had been an official for over 40 years, when a medical incident occurred in July ’21 which affected his mobility. John was determined to continue being involved in athletics, and to this end, purchased a mobility scooter. He figured that this would enable him to move around the track to the various start locations quickly. Once in situ, he could carry out the duties of Starter’s Assistant, with minimal movement.

John tells us:

I did a ‘test event’ at the Brewer Games in Cheltenham in early May to see if my plan would work.

I was slightly apprehensive as to how it would go, plus the reaction of other officials. The day went really well. It was a busy programme, and I was able to do my job without problems. My colleagues made no comments and accepted my mode of transport as the norm.

John has since officiated at further local events, including the Midland Championships at Nuneaton, a Loughborough International, the English Schools' AA championships in Manchester and the International Children’s Games in Coventry. He is looking forward to working at more events in 2023:

There has been plenty of friendly banter at every event. References to speeding, hitching a ride, and towing the block trolly are just a few! A couple of fellow officials have even had a ‘test drive'.

There are plenty of opportunities for volunteers and technical officials with some form of disability.

Chiefs/referees need to be adaptable in allocating roles to such officials. Although some roles may unsuitable, but with forethought, everyone can play their part — supporting athletics to become a truly inclusive hobby and positive experience for everyone.


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  • Featured image: Officials Peter Shilling and John Pickles