The Roar
The Roar


Please umpires, take the time to get the on-field decisions right

Umpire contact is to be outlawed. (Lachlan Cunningham)
10th June, 2013

In smokers’ ever-shrinking areas, at coffee machines, across the top of cubicles and desk partitions, and even on the school playground, they – or more specifically their decisions – are a regular topic of Monday morning conversations and arguments each week of the football season.

It’s as common as Mondayitis, and while the long weekend means Monday becomes Tuesday this week, the debate will the same this morning and go somewhere along the lines of: “What was that umpire thinking? That imbecile cost us the game.”

St Kilda supporters in particular will probably be the most vocal, after their club was involved in a couple of calls late in their fourth quarter clash with West Coast, that not only went against the Saints, but could definitely be called game-changing.

The most notable and crucial was the one paid against defender Sean Dempster for his tackle on Matt Priddis. Dempster was penalised for “in the back” of his opponent. Harsh – absolutely. Totally wrong – well, you won’t get too many arguments with that apart from with those who wear West Coast merchandise.

And then we had to the incorrect decision to rule against a goal to Jeff Garlett in the opening quarter of Carlton’s loss to Essendon last Friday. Replays clearly showed it was in fact a goal, but sadly the umpire did not call to use the goal review system. If you’ve got it …. USE IT.

There seems to be so much concern in the game about not wanting to slow it down by referring decisions ‘upstairs’.

Isn’t it more important to take 30-60 seconds and get it right, rather than save that minute and possibly get it wrong? What, is everyone going to miss the last train if we take a few minutes each game for reviews?

Seriously, why bother having it then? Scrap it completely, or use it regularly. It’s about getting it right when ever we can. Umpires won’t get calls right all the time, but there are instances when they are able to get it right courtesy of the goal review. Use it, or lose it.

Carlton lost that game by five points, the exact amount of extra points they should have received from the Garlett incident. You can’t say that cost them the game. It was in the opening term, and so much would have changed had a goal been ruled. But that’s not the point. It should have been a goal – end of story.


As I said the umpires are not going to get it right all the time. They do their best in a very, very difficult job. There is no alternative. You can’t have the entire game overseen by a video review system, then, a 7.40pm game may not finish until well after that last train is being washed in the sheds.

Part of being a footy fan is just accepting it’s all part of the game and has been since the game began. Regardless of the club, take a look on their fan forums, and you are guaranteed to find a thread or two or three on bad umpiring callls that club has been a victim of.

You are going to get some bad decisions from time to time. They hurt like hell, and they usually are only fodder for debate and argument after a close loss … hence the pain.

But all you can do is hope they even themselves out over time, and the reality is, they probably do.

In a perfect world, umpires should not be seen and only their whistles heard.

All I can suggest is to continue to yell at them, continue to bag them on gameday, continue to talk about them on a Monday, continue to tell your mate what you’d like to do to them after your team has ‘got one of those calls.’

But what’s the alternative? While we can and should use the goal review technology, as for general play decisions, as much as we would like it to be, umpiring isn’t black and white (and I don’t mean Collingwood), there are so many grey areas in terms of interpretation, grey areas which send fans grey prematurely. But that’s footy.

I am by no means an apologist for umpires. I too have seen bad decisions cost my team. But until someone comes up with a getter option, it’s what we have to live with.


And just remember, for every bad call we talk about on a Monday or this time Tuesday morning, there are 100 or more that don’t get a mention. Why? Because I guess someone must be doing something right.

Now let’s move on to next week.