AFL umpires: Pros or pretenders?
It’s time for change. Our AFL players are professionals, so is it too much to expect the umpires to be professionals too?
There has been an ongoing discussion debating the effectiveness of umpires in the ‘greatest game of all’. Paul Roos, respected and legendary former player and coach of the Sydney Swans, stated in 2004 that “umpires were amateur whistle-blowers” and something needed to improve.
Given the money in the sport, the extensive fan base and the constant criticism generated on this topic, it’s time to change now.
Umpires are part-time employees. Can we, as passionate fans, continue to tolerate and watch our game crumble with poor decisions as a result of lack of training and professionalism?
Currently umpires receive a mere 23 hours per week of training in rules, regulations, and everything they need to know in order to be ‘on-field experts’. It’s not enough!
A clear example of this came in Round 2 when Essendon took on the Swans at ANZ. In an extremely close game and one that came down to the final minutes we saw a terrible decision that everyone but the umpire saw.
Essendon’s Brent Stanton clearly deserved a free kick for a push in the back, but didn’t get it. The Swans ran the full length of the field and kicked a goal to win the game. People will say that’s just football, but why have we come to accept these shocking calls?
AFL Operations Manager Adrian Anderson states that the NRL has full time referees on its books and the AFL needs to “improve the output of its own officials.” Too right mate. It’s time to change.
To improve this dilemma viable solutions have been offered, such as identifying promising umpires and sending them to a purpose-built umpiring academy. University scholarships would be offered in order to improve the standard of officiating around the league. Why we haven’t done it already is a mystery.
One billion dollars in broadcasting rights are about to be paid to the AFL. This is big money, big business and big salaries for players. What about the umpires?
It is clear this money is not being distributed where it needs to be – to address the problem of poor decision making by underpaid, undertrained umpires.
Gary Ablett is being paid $1.2 million a year, while umpires get $60,000 a year and are relying on full time jobs outside of umpiring as their main source of income.
Why don’t we bump up their salaries to $150,000 or $200,000 a year and give them a proper career path? This will definitely improve the current inventory of errors I witness each week because simply, it’s just not good enough.
The time has come. The need is there. The solutions being advocated by most of us in the AFL community are now clearly achievable given the current financial security of the league through the broadcasting agreement.
As fervent fans of our great game we are entitled to watch our teams at their finest with the finest umpires that money can buy, so that we are not left robbed and in tears at the final siren.
The time for change is now.