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It's time the AFL employed full-time umpires

(AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)
Roar Pro
29th September, 2017
11

With the AFL industry getting bigger every year, it’s time to think about having full-time umpires.

Remember last year’s grand final? Even crusty, one-eyed supporters of other clubs reckon the Swans copped some pretty average decisions.

In fact, Sydney were on the wrong side of the free kick count that day to the tune of 20-8, which included a handful of controversial calls when the game was in the balance early in the last term.

A post-game analysis by an independent committee found that the quality of umpiring fell well short, which is small consolation for John Longmire and his side.

You won’t hear anyone from the Swans carrying on about the umpiring in last year’s grand final, it’s not their style, but can you imagine how Eddie McGuire and the boys from Collingwood would have reacted if it happened to them? They’d be fighting it in the courts!

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If we’re looking to continually improve the game, then part of that must surely be to improve the performance of the blokes with the whistle.

It wasn’t that long ago that AFL players had part-time jobs, but now they can earn such a ridiculously good living that they can be fulltime professional footballers. As a result, the standard of footy and the players’ athleticism have gone through the roof.

If going full-time can make that difference to the players, then it can work for our umpires too. Maybe it starts with a full-time academy, which is run Monday to Friday.

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Interestingly, in an effort to develop a higher-quality, more consistent on-field product, the NFL is promoting a handful of its referees from part-time to full-time status. The change started this year, and in the coming year, the league’s top officials will transition away from their day jobs into an elevated role in professional football.

The NFL Referees Association has approved a plan to establish up to 24 full-time officials. The full-time officials will be chosen from the existing pool of 124, and candidates who want to make the transition will be allowed to apply for consideration.

It’s something the AFL would do well to at least consider.