Why would you be an Umpire?
The Collingwood cheer squad berate the boundary umpire during the AFL Round 15 match between the Geelong Cats and Colingwood Magpies at the MCG. Slattery Images
Answer me this: What kind of sick idea for a job is it where skinny men are forced to run around in circles for hours on end with a small metal apparatus in their mouth that they’re forced to blow repeatedly; all the whilst being surrounded and berated by much larger, sweaty men?
You got it. An AFL umpire.
Show me the kid that says to their mum growing up “Mum, when I grow up I want to be an umpire…”
On the list of desirable occupations, ‘sporting official’ would surely be close to the bottom (right next to pool cleaner and Melbourne Demons coach).
Among the most despised people in the world of sport, (on some days more so than Jason Akermanis and Stephen Milne combined) why men would put themselves in this position is beyond me. Maybe they’ve been getting their ‘match-day water’ from Ben Cousins…
It doesn’t seem to matter which sport either – AFL, NRL, Soccer (sorry, football); hell even the seniors over on the cricket pitch are prone to a bit of a spray once in a while
With a job more scrutinised than Craig Thomson and Julia Gillard combined, for their own safety umpires are now as protected a species as the Tassie Devil, shielded from even the most mild of criticism.
It’s getting so bad these days that as soon as a player or coach so much as whispers any kind of feedback about an umpires’ performance, the AFL hands down a fine faster than the time it takes to clear a room when ‘that uncle’ starts taking his shirt off on the dance floor at your sisters’ wedding.
In this day and age, with the increased level of professionalism that clubs are made to show; and the amount of scrutiny that players are receiving – surely it’s about time that the umpires are also made to answer for their actions?
As the AFL continues to shield the umps’ from any kind of feedback, the way people see them is fast becoming akin to small, scared rodents afraid of the light shining in their direction – terrified of accountability.
The truth is – they garner little or no respect from fans or players. What’s that Dean Margetts? “Umpires are respected figures in the game” No, Dean – they’re not. Just because you gave Dempsey a little love tap on the back, doesn’t mean people love you.
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh – being an umpire is a tough gig – with the scrutiny and ease of gaining abusive taunts enough to turn most away; it’s certainly not a job that I’d want.
And there’s even more hate North of the border in the land of Rugby League refs, with incidents such as ‘that try’ from Origin 1 – the debatable Greg Inglis four pointer providing massive uproar among fans, with most of the public rage directed at residing video referee Sean Hampstead – who was almost instantly stood down by the NRL (obviously a way of telling him to lay low for his own protection).
Until the AFL (and other codes) find a way to simultaneously harvest respect for umpires; and make them accountable for their performances on-field, the days of fans hating the ump’ and screaming at every decision will live on.
But let’s be honest, that’s the way we like it. So tell me kids, who wants to really be a referee?