The Roar
The Roar


Goal umpiring needs an overhaul

Roar Pro
10th June, 2012

It is time to completely overhaul the way we ‘coach’ our goal umpires. The introduction of the goal review system was put in place to eradicate the decisions goal umpires miss, in particular when the ball is very close to the goal post.

However the problem is not suddenly that players are kicking the ball closer to the goal post or even that the goal posts have gotten closer together. It comes down to how the goal umpires are coached.

The game on Friday night between Carlton and Geelong highlighted the incorrect positioning of our goal umpires. In this game, the ball was kicked and was rolling towards goal. It clearly hit the goal post and went through. How could the goal umpire miss that?

Simple, he was incorrectly positioned. Goal umpires are instructed to stand as far away from the play, or position of the ball, and stand on the goal-line to watch it cross the line.

In this instance, there was no way that umpire could see the ball touch the goal post and deviate the five degrees off its original line.

Supporters behind the goals and players all pointing to the bleeding obvious that the ball hit the post. Fortunately it was reviewed upstairs and given the correct decision.

Goal umpires need to be able to read the play better and have more freedom to make decisions for themselves about where they are positioned. There is no doubt that standing on the goal-line when the ball is being kicked for goal and a pack forms in the goal square is a smart decision to see if the ball is touched before it completely crosses the line.

However, standing on the goal-line when the ball is dribbling into an open goal square or when the ball is being contested close to goal is silly. Umpires stand in line with the person on the mark and the kicker when players are kicking for goal so they can follow the balls flight through the big sticks. You don’t see them standing on the goal-line.

Now suggesting that umpires take position in line with the trajectory of the ball will then mean that umpires could miss the ball being touched before the ball crosses the line. This is true.


However, there have been too many instances alone this season where umpires are standing on the goal-line when clearly nobody will touch the ball and the only concern is whether the ball will touch the goal post.

Umpires need more freedom to correctly position themselves, dependent on the play that is eventuating.

This incorrect position can be summed up perfectly with Tom Hawkins now famous 2009 grand final goal. After smothering the ball in the goal square, Hawkins snaps the ball for goal. You clearly see the umpire instead of moving to line-up with the flight of the ball, moves towards the goal-line and moves to be the furthest away from the position of the ball.

Who is going to touch it? There is not one player in the goal square and no chance of anyone touching the ball before crossing the line. His incorrect decision on where he stands to judge the goal meant he clearly misses it hitting the post.

Goal umpires need to be better positioned for the type of play occurring. We need smart goal umpires. By that I mean umpires that have good knowledge of football and can ‘read’ the play and make informed judgments on the most likely score type to eventuate from the play. Field umpires could also support the decision making process.