Umpiring at crisis level

Umpiring of AFL footy and the instructions given to them has deteriorated. It has become a dead set farce and is ruining the fabric of the game. I write as an experienced maggot so I have a genuine understanding of how difficult it is and the grey areas involved. Thursday night’s game between Port and Hawthorn was as poor an exhibition of umpiring as I have seen (when you are watching as a neutral and what stands out is umpiring errors there is a serious problem.)

The holding the ball decision against Cam O’Shea in that game and against Reece Conca of Richmond against the Western Bulldogs are just so wrong. This garbage that they didn’t make a genuine attempt is crap – the correct and common sense decision is to quickly blow the whistle and ball it up. Don’t blame the umpires, they are only doing as they have been instructed. Hayden Kennedy as umpires coach is hardly ever questioned. The rules committee and, in particular, Kevin Bartlett during his time on the committee, with the holding the ball and hands in the back interpretations, have a lot to answer for.

The umpiring fraternity for coming up with the idea that they had to get umpires out of the way and out of the corridor to avoid collisions with players have caused so many of the dramas as umpires are now so regularly out of position and not side-on to the contest – for goodness sake again a complete lack of common sense.

The three umpire system has never worked and can’t work as umpiring has never worked out the positioning and change overs. It is basically a one umpire system in which you run around like a blue arsed fly until a goal is scored and then switch zones. That is why I actually support trialing the four umpire system – let’s see if we can get the positioning and change overs correct and, if not, actually be honest and admit the three umpire system has never worked and revert back to two umpires.

The deliberate out of bounds rule has highlighted the complete lack of understanding the majority of umpires have of the game, having never played adult footy at any level. Although I admit Jordan Bannister who has played at the elite level gave the worst howler of the season in the Roos v Dogs game (I still maintain it is a game you must have played as a adult at some level to umpire.)

Another blight on the game is when a pack forms and the umpire circles around like a seagull moving in for the kill and the poor bloke at the bottom of the pack who has as much chance of getting it out as winning X Lotto is pinged. Blow the bloody whistle earlier and ball it up or if there has been an incorrect tackle so there is a over the shoulder or in the back, bloody pay it again. COMMON SENSE.

The umpiring overall in 2016 is influencing more games than ever, hence the ‘free kick Hawthorn’ social media storm. It has been deplorable – it needs to be grabbed by the balls and given a complete overhaul. Things I would love to see happen:

  1. Umpiring department leadership sent as far away from the game as possible preferably with rules committee (throw in Chaplin.)
  2. Shane Harris given the umpiring job and told we want what you had with the SANFL several years ago. Shane in my opinion (and others involved in umpiring) became disenchanted and copied the AFL instructions which caused the SANFL to go backwards as well. Harris was a breath of fresh air to start with and there was actual common sense involved.
  3. Get umpires back in the central corridor yes there is the odd collision but it enables the umpire to get side-on to the contest especially for the next play which currently is physically impossible.
  4. Get rid of the bounce – it is the only sport in the world which demands you be good at a skill which has nothing to do with giving the correct decision and you are penalised if you are no good at it.

Overall if sports morons such as myself are becoming completely disillusioned, frustrated and losing interest there is a serious problem. The AFL must stop treating umpires and the idiotic decisions being made like the Free Masonry and not be discussed and try to fix. As a footy lover the majority of us beg you to admit umpiring is at a crisis level. Be HONEST and overhaul.

The Footy Almanac - Write From The Heart


  1. Yep yep yep. Was about to write off the Dogs this year and then not just Conca but the dodgy Edwards 50 brought them back into it (I thought Sheds was allowed in the protected area if he was tracking his man?). Dusty pinged when not actually tackled. Cotchin pinged for an unrealistic attempt when he touched the ball, and then to be told it was play on when it happened to him because the Dog touched the ball.

    Crap year for Tiges with blowers. Still can’t fathom why Ellis was called to play on that night as the clock ran down.

    Have been a defender of the bounce but no more.

    Chaplin as Umpires’ Boss. Now that would be funny!

    I see Hawthorn do scoopy flicks and it’s always play on, but Jong did same last night and it was automatic free against.

  2. Marcus Smith says

    Haha spot on Malcolm .Over umpired two is definitely enuff they had 4 the other night.I cant stand it.Two much confusion .
    tigers r shot
    Crows Looking gr8

  3. Cathryn McDonald says

    Thankyou for that Rulebook. I admit that the true believers on Thursday night may have gotten a bit carried away by the occasion at times (I’ll cover that in my match report). However, if even Crows people found the umpiring in that game to be unpleasant, then maybe there was a real problem contributing to the “theatre” going on in the crowd.

    I also appreciate the commentary from an umpire’s perspective, a lot of the time we don’t see what goes into the job of umpiring. That explains a bit why we always see umpires out of position, something that Hawthorn was taking advantage of with sneaky throws visible to tens of thousands of Port fans but not to the umpire on the wrong side, among other things.

  4. Spot on Book, you make a number of valid points. I’d like to see the same “team”of umpires always umpire together for each game. Can’t hurt.

  5. Great article Rulebook and one that is highly topical.
    I sort of watched the game Thursday night, and I was dumbfounded at some of the umpiring decisions made (or not made as the case may be.)
    The 3rd quarter was particularly quizzical in nature, as it seemed at times that Hawthorn were the recipient of a number of free kicks for, in some fairly beneficial locations on the ground.
    Liked the reference to Chaplin as an umpire’s boss, couldn’t do any worse than his efforts as a player.
    I have a potential solution to the positioning problems of the field umpires. Let the field umpires stay back in the corridor, the odd player v umpire contact will occur. (Stop penalising players for incidental contact too, it’s ridiculous. Punish any deliberate contact absolutely. Not accidental.)
    Allow the boundary umpires to pay free kicks too. They’ll have another view of the play, one that may be clear of obstruction.

  6. Tom Martin says

    You actually mangled your metaphors into shape there, Book. An ‘experienced maggot’ becomes a blue arse fly. I’m so impressed I’m going to take a leaf out of yours, Book. I bring you the ‘Word Association’ comment in review.

    Grey areas :- Blessed are his shorts.
    Kevin Bartlett :- Demetamorphosis.
    Collisions with umpires :- Play on!
    Ex-players umpiring :- Chaplin, oh yes please.
    Seagulls :- Maggots of the sky.
    Shane Harris :- Rulebook’s mate.
    Bounce :- Worse than the TV show.
    Freemasons: Secret handshake. Like that one with Book after the game.
    Crisis :- See bounce.

  7. Stephen J says

    Well said ‘book. (1) Let’s also stop including out of bound on the full in the free kick count and (2) push for free kick numbers to be broken down or categorised.
    Umpiring standards is but one problem the game is currently facing. Just wait until the power brokers realise that traditionally strong football schools are struggling to field a first XVIII while they put 8-10 soccer teams on the park. Like traditional cricket, Aussie football has dark clouds on the horizon.

  8. Mark Clarke says

    Rulebook, that is the most accurate summation of umpiring! Too many times poor decisions have affected the outcome of games, and that should never happen! Once upon a time, the players could work out what an umpire would pay or wouldn’t, as long as they were consistent, but how can you have consistency with three umpires? Apart from the instructions they get from the umpiring director, it is still a matter of interpretation by each umpire, and I’ve seen some variation in that more than once.
    Some things that were once penalised under the rules seem to be ignored now, like Push in the back, Ducking and throwing the ball.
    And why do they slavishly follow the Australian Farnarkling Leagues’ example ? That game has been modified at the behest of TV networks to suit THEM, and it should be they just telecast the game under its’ own rules-Why in hell should THEY get a say? In my view, that’s putting the cart before the horse!
    Don’t get me started on umpires being out of position, you hit the nail on the head, they miss too many things because they’re not in a position to see what’s happening, so they make some real howlers and this contributes to the almost RABID hatred displayed by some fans, which may lead to an umpire being assaulted one day-some people take the game far too seriously and forget it’s just a game, an entertainment-and passions can be aroused to dangerous levels.
    And as it IS an entertainment, they must give fans what THEY want, not the bloody TV networks.
    Anyhow, that’s my rant, I wish YOU were the director of umpiring-we might get some decent umpiring back in the game, but I aint holding my breath for that!
    Cheers !

  9. Sean O'Dwyer says

    Bounce is horrible, doesn’t always give the ruckman the best chance to tap the ball, for example them having to wait for it.
    Deliberate out of bounds what a joke, they still can’t get it right
    Holding the ball is just frustrating
    Only problem with 2 umpires 9 umpires a round lose their job, 4 umpires is too confusing though

  10. well said, we need more constructive analyses of the umpiring.

    The big continuing problem is the INCONSISTENCY. I was surprised last year to hear the umpires director on SEN say umpires get 97% of decisions correct. When questioned by the OX further on how that number was derived, he said we look at the decisions made and decide if they were correct or not.

    The OX then immediately asked the obvious question, what about the decisions not made? “Oh, we don’t count those” was his reply.

    THere-in lies the problem, what gets measured gets managed. If you don’t look at the non-decisions we will NEVER have consistency.

    I had an idea using the AFL website replays of the game – currently, they have moments when goals are scored time-stamped on the video.

    Wouldn’t it be good for transparency to have all the frees and non-decisions time-stamped on the video so the public can scrutinise the umpiring.

  11. G’day Rulebook,

    Your article is great with good analysis.

    As for collision between players and umpires, it’s better not to fear in order to make right decisions. But yesterday, Nick Riewoldt collided with an umpire and the decision seemed not to be made well during he was unavailable.

    On the other hand, umpires’ running can block players’ ways to catch balls. Last year’s incident in a game between Carlton and Geelong where a Geelong runner blocked a Blue was a bad one. Then Carlton lost an opportunity to win the close game.

    I’m not impressed with the report made for Seb Ross yesterday. Ross didn’t intend to conduct a tough contact. He just tried to get a ball.

    To be honest, bounce is attractive on the footy. I want umpires to bounce better. I miss bounces made outside the centre field.

    KB’s changing games distracts me to listen to SEN between 9 am and midday. His comments are nonsense. I much prefer Mark Finey and the Ox.



  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks folks I was motivated to write the article having watched the power v hawks,cats v swans and
    dogs v tigers games which were all just so poorly umpired and I was angry and disgusted,Peter article not aimed at sides more to give people a insight in to umpiring thanks,MarcusCathryn thank you Cathryn must admit I thought there were a few throws and then watching again the hawks knocked it on they are brilliant at that.Chris spot on and it was a oversight of mine to miss that point yep teams of umpires should be developed.Steve yes it has been stupidity to take the umpires out of the corridor.TM absolutely brilliant and I apolisize I don’t no,Shane Harris.Mark I would love to be umpires boss I can guarantee it would be completely different but alas no it won’t happen.Sean thank you and I basically agree the number of umpires I have written purely from a umpiring perspective as the game it probably is 2 quick for 2 but 3 isn’t working..George it is the lack of constructive critiscm the perfect example was Troy Pannell earlier in the year re the dogs v crows it wasn’t the number of frees it was the errors and free kicks missed yet the umpiring fraternity were quick to defend again a complete lack of reality and honesty.A idiotic free kick in ruck to Jacobs yesterday is another huge problem the majority well and truly have no understanding and NFI and desperately need a ruckman involved re coaching thanks folks

  13. Jill Tathra says

    Now this is from a female who never played or umpired footy, yes I know girls can now but I`m almost 70 and we certainly couldn`t, are the poor umpiring decisions showing up more now because of TV. The camera`s get right in and under and we see what maybe the umpires don`t. Yes it could be because of round around like a chook with its head chopped of but its just a thought. Another great article mate that makes us think as well as point out “stuff”.

  14. Jill Tathra says

    oh dear just reread and I`ve left out a bit; should read “because of running AROUND” like a chook etc!

  15. Steve wood says

    All good points book.
    Get rid if the bounce, there’s too many going at right angles, then some are recalled with others being play on.
    This seems the only game where rules and interpretations are changed and modified continually. WHY? They don’t improve the game, it’s only more confusing for the spectator and players.

  16. Dave Brown says

    Yeah, very much topical, Rulebook. It was amusing watching twitter on Thursday night watching Power hating Crows fans’ initial amusement at Hawthorn getting the rub of the green to flat out bemusement and sympathy with that passage of umpiring in the middle of the game. The one that gets me is that they only seem to want to pay incorrect disposal on Thursday nights.

    As for four umpires, watching the Carlton v Collingwood game last weekend, there was a point in the game where Carlton had the ball in their forward pocket and you could have drawn a straight line from the player with the ball to each of the umpires in succession up the field. Pointless innovation if they don’t use it to triangulate their views of the game (either that or let boundary umps call blatant throws).

    Part of the trouble though is for the most part the AFL would see no crisis at all. The current rules and their interpretations are designed to keep the game moving at all costs. Don’t like repeated contests? Well, ping blokes who tie the ball in (fairly or unfairly), be liberal with your definition of ‘knocked out in the tackle’ and have an almost zero tolerance approach to the ball going out of bounds (again fairly or unfairly). The show must keep moving… apparently. Trouble is all of these things are highly interpretable and require the umpire to have a feeling for the intent of the game we may not share.

  17. Malcolm, the umpiring on Thursday was total bulls*t.

    The same umpire who paid O’Shea’s holding the ball let two identical decisions go for Hawthorn within 5 minutes of giving that howler.

    You can’t even blame that on having too many umpires out there.

    Beyond ropable.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Jill I am sure the scrutiny highlights errors more but the game is stuck in a time warp refusing to admit there are huge problems re umpiring with its head stuck in the sand ( doesn’t that sound familiar )
    Steve there have been changes made to the game which has well and truly hurt the game seemingly more to satisfy some peoples ego than to actually try and improve the game exactly,Steve leave the bloody game alone.Dave we need the umpires in the corridor and then get side on to the contest from there that is not happening I don’t mind boundary umpires being used for blatant things even communication re the disgraceful non paid mark to Westoff thurs night.Lack of footy nous and common sense really showed thru this round.Duncs when I am watching and thinking,Port are being crucified parted the seeds for this article,fri night and then the Conca call demanded me to write it

  19. Good work Rulebook, and I agree about the bounce. I don’t see how four umpires is an improvement on three, unless they have an umpires bench and rotate them!

    The worst thing, which others have picked up, is inconsistency. OK, I can see why player x got that free, but when player y does exactly the same and it’s “Play on” it riles everyone, players as well as spectators.

  20. Tony Robb says

    Might we also ask for the definition of a handball as it appears the flick pass has come back. Iv’e always worked on the basis that clenched fist was obligatory. 50 % of close in handballs are now slapped or thrown. Could not agree more about the quick throw to stop the seagulls hovering over the bloke making the play. They could also dispense with the hand signal indicating which direction they will move after the throw up. I would have thought was self explanatory
    Good piece Mal

  21. kath presdee says

    Very topical ‘Book.

    I would like to have gotten an experienced ump’s views on some of the decisions in the Giants v Pies game.

    While it was not the determining factor of the game, some umpiring decisions were downright questionable.

  22. As always book, great insights, unfortunately I didnt get to watch the port game I totally agree Book, as Arny said to me once, “put the whistle away”

  23. Rick Kane says

    My two cents worth.

    Crisis, what crisis? When did the crisis start and what was the tipping point?

    I’m 53 and I cannot recall a year or a level of compeition when and where the idea of umpiring hasn’t been the big target for our misguided frustration with the game itself. At my son’s U14s game on Sunday I commented that I thought the umpire did a good job. That’s not how my son saw it. He disagreed completely.

    Footy is a very subjective sport. Also, since its origins Aussie Rules has had to manage with a poorly constructed set of rules. The term maggot wasn’t thought up in this era. Yes, sometimes the umpiring is not as good as other times (the Hawks vs Port third quarter being a case in point) but that doesn’t mean there’s a crisis.

    I can assure you that for every Port missed free or free the Hawks were “handed on a plate” that you saw, I saw the same amount against the Hawks. One of the things I read between the lines of an article (and comments) like this is the argument points to one team (the Hawks in this instance) getting the better of the Umpires poor decisions. That seems more selective than objective.

    I thought the Umpires lost control for about 10 minutes in the Third. I texted a friend calling it panic umpiring. And I thought it had an adverse affect on both teams not one. The game was ground down but the game didn’t stop. The better team showed its mettle and the umpiring improved. To me, that is not a crisis.

    Also, can we move past the argument that an umpiring decision cost a team a winning chance. The only time that argument can be made is if the umpiring in a match had been perfect for 119 minutes and 50 seconds. Then in the last 10 seconds the umpire made a bad call and that decision allowed one team to kick a goal and win on the siren. Then, and only then can it reasonably be said that the umpire cost the team … Other than that the result lies in the efforts of 44 players chasing the pigskin around a paddock for 120 minutes and for their dear lives.

    Finally, if anyone has independent research into Australian Rules football umpiring, from any era, that would help me think through this debate could you post it here.


  24. Andrew Starkie says

    The treatment of Lindsay Thomas yesty by umpires was shameful.

    Umps acting of guilt and embarrassment from being hoodwinked by LT his whole career?

  25. Campbell says

    Great article again. I watched the Port v Hawks game, absolutely terrible display from the umpires. What is most annoying is the inconsistency between the rules from game to game, even how the calls vary throughout one game. You can never be certain on the deliberate out-of-bounds calls because everyone seems to have a slightly different interpretation. The constant altering of rules never helps the umpires grasp the changes correctly, the game needs to be left alone.

  26. Why is SANFL umpiring so much better than AFL?
    I suggest you send your column to the AFL umpiring director.

  27. Stone Cold Steve Baker says

    Well argued Book.

    Through a number of contacts, I used to be able to have a look at the video released by the umpiring department at the start of each season to media outlets as a guide to how particular rules would be interpreted (i.e hands in the back, high tackle, deliberate out of bounds etc.) and without fail, it became an utter waste of time as after three or four rounds the interpretations the umpires THEMSELVES released, was thrown out the window.

    I didn’t see the Port v Hawthorn game, but your analysis seems to highlight something that bugged the shit out of me for a number of years: what constitutes a holding the ball decision on Friday night, is play-on on Saturday afternoon, and what’s deliberate on Saturday afternoon is a throw in by Saturday night and what’s a chop of the arms in a marking contest on Saturday night is play-on on Sunday and so on, and so on and so on.

    It’s easy to kick umps, I know, and I don’t like doing it, but the inconsistency in decisions from game to game – even quarter-to-quarter from the same crew and the obsession with ‘rule changes’ (the rules committee seems to be nothing more than a de-facto pension-plan for retired ex players whose existence can only be validated by remaining active in the game, no matter how shit their contributions continue to be) has to stop.

  28. Riverboy says

    Very accurate mate.

    We all know umpires review each game and analyse their decisions however it is not a transparent process. If it was more open and allowed for feedback/debate maybe through the players association or even the media the general public maybe provided with justifications and some possible improvements may come from it.
    The umpires are untouchable with any desicions they make being beyond scrutiny, it pisses off the very people that support the game.
    The best games of footy are the games umpires are not noticed.

  29. The Wrap says

    You missed a screamer PW. Cotchin pinged for an attempted mark that didn’t come off — in the back. Okay, it’s an old rule, but it’s still in the book. And it’s a fair one: take the grab or turn the ball over. But when it happened to Cotchin it was play-on. And you’re spot on: the Edwards 50m penalty was pure maggotting blasphemy. A total and utter nonsense. Edward had no idea where the kicker was; he was busy watching his man. In fact the kicker ran backwards into Edward’s space. The other 50m penalty was a petty display worthy of a Malcolm Turnbull acceptance speech.

    And can we have the umpire’s names on their backs in large print? Or at least their numbers. If they insist on being an influential part of the game we’d like to be able to pick them up quickly.

    They’re getting good money. It can’t be that hard. And as for the manhandling and Teddy Whitten hand balls, if I can see them from the second tier of the Ponsford Stand and on the screen, surely they can out there at the heart of the action? It’s a real turn-off. And with the world entering a Maunder Minimum, it’s going to take a bit to get the punters to the ground to put up with the rubbish being dished up from Maggot Central.

  30. I am pretty much in Rick’s camp. Screaming for frees and complaining about the umpires is as old as Methuselah. I am constantly bemused by the crowd around me who seem to watch the umpires more than the players.
    I can’t think of a game this season (win or lose) where I thought the umpire’s contributed more to the result than our player’s performance did.
    However I do agree with DBrown and TRobb with the throw having been implicitly removed from the rules unless its a blatant rugby sling. Keep the ball moving as DB says is the central principle and that makes correct disposal according to the letter of the law virtually impossible when tackled. So umpire’s interpret any vaguely reasonanable attempt as OK. Boomer got pinged for a Trevor Chappell underarm in the last quarter yesterday and felt hard done by.
    Taking yesterday’s Eagles – Kangaroos game as a sample, I gave the umpires a pass mark:
    – There was no home town umpiring.. We generally get the rub of the green at Subi and crucified away. I figure its got something to do with the Umpire’s eventual pavlov’s dog response to the crowd. Yesterday North got the rub of the frees in the first half, but we ended up slightly in front (28/24) after dominating general play in the second half. As it should be.
    – This was an 8 point game, so both teams were fired up and “making him earn it” at every opportunity. Umpires over-reacted with a lot of 50’s, and players were stupid (hello Jack Ziebell) if they couldn’t see the umps were red hot on any physicality. Only one clanger was a 50 to Darling for a staged fall, but Kennedy already had marked it at 35 out so it just made a certainty of a probable. Lycett will cop a week for an unnecessarily aggressive tackle on Ziebell which was clumsy not malice. 50 metre penalties were split evenly and just reflected umpires panicking when the game showed any signs of niggle.
    – Staging. AStarkie is right in part. I saw 2 head highs that Lindsay Thomas should have got, but jeez the bloke is his own worst enemy with the number of times he throws his hands in the air appealing. If he shut up and worked harder at crumbing the Kangas would be a lot better off. Jack Darling does the same – grapples or pushes the ball in front of him waving his arms and claiming to be tackled without the ball. Quite correctly ignored. Would be better if he played harder rather than being a part time umpire.
    – In the back is a perennial confusion. I saw 2 Eagles get penalised when they had their arms around the opposition waist trying to restrain a speeding locomotive. Always hard to interpret. If there are no hands in the back just inevitable forward momentum of both players I would prefer play on.
    – The frustrating ones are the sporadic changes of interpretation. Players got away with lots of 10 metre kicks yesterday, particularly deep in defence. Same for both sides, but I wonder what has happened to that rule in recent weeks. Only one deliberate OOB which was against us when Shepherd had 3 Kangas on his tail and kicked at 45 degrees while turning. I like the rule but that was a dumb interpretation.
    – Holding the ball was ok yesterday. If you refused to give it off or had prior opportunity (North’s Wagner twice in 2 minutes in the LQ) you got pinged. Same for both sides. Fair enough. Players hang onto it and go to ground when they know there are no team mates in the vicinity. Being correctly penalised most weeks.
    Marking – Players are having to earn their marks, but a late chop of the arms is penalised. Ben Brown correctly got one yesterday. Cyril has to hang on, not get them based on Bruce’s wet dreams.
    Trips – Correctly penalised both sides a couple of times yesterday, even though the leg connection was accidental in the flurry of bodies.
    Umpiring is as good (or as bad) as it has ever been. Rarely affects results only fan’s heart rates. There is the odd shocker, but as I tell the Avenging Eagle – I’ll complain when they make as many simple mistakes as our players. Kennedy dropped a mark on his own 2O metres out. LeCras dribbled a point from on his own 15 metres out by failing to kick through the ball.
    We have to learn to live with the things we cannot live without. Including umpires, politicians and taxes.

  31. Luke Reynolds says

    For all the money that has flowed into the game, kicking for goal and umpiring haven’t improved.
    Get rid of the bounce, and give the 4 umpire system a decent trial.

  32. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Some good points here Rulebook. More confusion than crisis which may lead to crisis if some common sense isn’t instilled soon. They became trigger happy In the Port v Hawthorn game because they didn’t want melees to escalate. Spoiled the game.

    Bounce is a disaster, deliberate out of bounds has been ok, but they need to crack down on the deliberate point rush and be clearer about holding/dropping the ball, prior opportunity. Also, 15 metre kick rule is arbitrary. Sheesh, maybe they are in crisis !!

  33. I’ll have a bob each way here.

    Umpiring has been various levels of awful since Dick Condon was a boy. I’ve read articles from the 1930’s about the holding the ball/man/incorrect disposal interpretations causing consternation.

    However, in this day and age surely it can be better. I do sympathise with the umpires, the level of technicality, the number of rules and speed of the game makes for a bloody hard job.

    I’m not so sure about the ‘more is better’ solution though. I’d rather have the best umpires making more (consistent) decisions than a diluted talent pool which utilises 4 variable interpretations within a game.

  34. Trucker Slim says

    Hi JD

    How are you?

    Picking up your thread, but it cuts through the discussion emanating from Rulebook’s article I’ll restate a point I made. I don’t think the umpiring can get much better. That doesn’t mean I think it’s brilliant by any means. Footy is an incredibly subjective game. Always has been. It’s one of its essential charms (and frustrations). Even the consistency desired and imagined I believe is elusive. Ignoring conspiracy theory arguments, the coaching department analyse the game more than anybody else and even they can’t attain consistency. And I’m sure that it’s one of their Top 3 KPIs.

    I am more interested in what studies (if any) there are on the role of umpiring to the game and what has been learned from that.


  35. Peter Crossing says

    Well said , young Malcolm.

    Umpire – The interpreter of events. One who enables supporters of opposing teams to fervently disagree with one another.

    Decision – An interpretation of an event which, though immediately favoured by one supporter, would have been violently opposed by the same supporter had it favoured the other team.

    Decisions of great debate (and which have been forever thus)
    1. Holding the ball – Prior opportunity appears closely related to no prior opportunity, the difference being the number of opponents with arms raised in supplication or the level of the crowd roar.

    2. Deliberate-out-of bounds – A decision of great whimsy and seemingly little logic, often depending on the variable bounce of the pigskin rather than player intent.

    3. Handball – In close contact situations a literal translation of this skill occurs when a player simply hands the ball to a teammate.

  36. SANFL umpiring is the template let the play go as much as possible.

  37. Nick Raschella says

    I went to Thursday night’s game at Adelaide Oval. On the Bigfooty forum earlier in the day I wrote good no McInnery, Chamberlain, Nicholls, Margetts and Banister means we wont get some show pony wanting to dominate.

    But I forgot about Scott Jeffrey. That dill paid 17-4 free kicks to the Hawks over Port at some point in the game it was 18-5 at the 16 minute mark of the last quarter and then gave out a few useless cheapies to make his night an 18-8.

    For 15 minutes in the 3rd quarter the game was a farce because of these 3 idiots. They miss throws, hits to the head, knees to the guts, push in the backs, riding players on the ground like they were a horse etc etc. There argument was I was on a bad angle. and didnt see it.

    Send them to Syria for presason training. What’s the bet they work their arse off to get on the right angles to survive!! They should had back their match payments.

  38. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Yoshi the odd collision between player and umpire is going to occur that is far more beneficial than the umpires being so out of position umpiring out on the boundary line and no no no re the bounce what does it add to the game ? In my opinion absolutely nothing why in the hell have we got the umpires having to perform a skill which adds nothing to the game get rid of it !Don lack of consistency is a huge problem.Tony yes there are some throws I prefer that to be missed than a hand ball called a throw.
    Rick yes the umpiring was very poor re both sides but as well and truly a neutral there is no doubt that the hawks got more than there rub of the green as they have in several games this year but the article wasn’t aimed at a club it s my frustration and disgust at the standard and at least I have suggested some improvements.Andrew you are correct but I also am adamant that,Thomas has caused this effect and being honest I have little sympathy for him.Campbell thank you and yep leave the game alone.Stone Cold every single.WORD you have written is spot on.River boy ditto spot on.The Wrap,no the interpretation changed years ago re the mark providing a player is making a genuine attempt at the mark it is play on the umpire calls play on he deemed,Cotchin wasn’t he was unlucky.Edwards decision was 100 per cent correct and was v dumb exactly like,Seedsman gave away weeks ago against hawthorn where it came out he didn’t understand the rule I dare say,Edwards may be the same he let his opponent get to far away I and then encroached the restricted area it was completely his fault now the holding the ball against ,Conca is where the instruction is wrong not,Jordan Bannisters decision.I agree people are stopping going dud to appalling umpiring.PB I only saw parts of yesterday’s game and thought the umpiring was ok and there was really poor discipline especially by Ziebell and it has always frustrated and been bemusing how the wa sides have got such a good run at home who knows what is happening physiologically..Yes you are correct and exactly what I have always said mistakes by players far more than umpires cost games as I did against the hawks earlier in the year what happened this week tho when you are watching as a neutral and think the umpires are ruining the game this round is the most I have ever felt that.Luke could not agree more.Phil very constructive it is just so frustrating at the moment.Jeff the 4 umpire system needs a decent run and trial while I well and truly see where you are coming from I am commenting totally as a umpire re giving the 4 umpire system a go as I have said the 3 doesn’t work.Rick umpiring can get so much better with better positioning and more common sense,Stone Cold described the role of several ruining the game perfectly above thanks folks appreciated

  39. Paddy Grindlay says

    Love to hear it Book,
    I’m maggoteering in the junior levels currently. Rule number one in the two-ump system is to stay in the guts all day long. The AFL boys are chucking the ball up and heading toward the closest boundary, which for contests along the fence puts the ump in such a terrible position. How these blokes are then expected to gun it back to the middle of the paddock and then drag themselves out along the fence every time there’s a contest there is nonsensical.
    On the bounce, was watching the Richmond vs Casey Scorpions VFL game on the box last week. One umpire bounced the ball something like 9 times throughout the match, over half of which were recalled. He’ll be the one to be dropped from the three umpires, due to nothing associated with his ability to make decisions. I agree with you, just chuck it up.

  40. Dan Sergeant says

    Great article RB.
    The problem we have with umpiring is that they are held up in a pedestal and not held accountable. Just as players have form slumps, so do umpires. The media is hyper critical of players whose form has turned, yet Umpires who are having similar form slumps are not held to the same scrutiny. I am not saying that we should open up umpires to personal attacks, but the pressure should be on that if they underperform then they will be umpiring at the lower levels.
    Secondly IMO there are too many umpires that forget rule #1 of umpiring. You are there to facilitate the game, and you are not the game.

  41. ‘Book your words of wisdom are spreading far and wide…all power to you. !!

  42. Rick sarre says

    Can’t get rid of the bounce, Book. Wonderful start to every centre contest.

  43. Paul Buxton says

    I was only a basketball umpire for 30+ years, so am probably not as qualified to comment! I was at Adelaide Oval Thursday night and thought the Aaron Young tackle right in front of goal in first quarter where he spun the Hawthorn bloke round nearly 2 full rotations for no result was deplorable, then it got worse. But on the way home, you always tend to think you are grumpy at the umpires because your team lost. Then to wake up Saturday and see the all time Port hater Cornes say we got a poor go was quite stunning!! I have a season ticket at Alberton for SANFL and I reckon the umpiring remains superior in those games. My old hobby horse about micoriaphones and numbers on umpires also comes to mind. Blokes like Ray Chamberlain seem to think they are part of the show; they are no more part of the show than a goal post in my view.

    In the 1980’s when I lived in Alice Springs and we got only The Winners on ABC TV, I remember saying to my boss in Adelaide on Mondays that umpiring was the biggest problem and I am afraid little has changed. I know it is a hard job, but I think you are right about requiring them to have played the game at adult level. Some of the holding the ball calls are just absurd, how can a bloke with 2 arms pinned to his side and his face mashed into the grass make an effort to dispose of it? Eez not possible Cisco!! Ruck infringements in many games just beggar belief at times.

    I have always been a traditionalist, but am slowly coming around to the view that the bounce may have to go. It has been one of the great distinguishing features or our game, but so much else has changed, not all for the better, that I am now 50/50 on its retention. Sad also to see that our mutual old mate Charlie Chaplin seems to have had his card marked….could he be traded to Brisbane? In exchange for, say, Martin Leslie?

  44. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Paddy getting umpires out of the corridor should be a criminal offense.Scrote totally agree yes form slumps are ignored in the umpiring world and it is a disgrace some of the umpires attitudes putting themselves above the game it’s not like they are umpiring thugs and have to impose themselves.
    Thanks Damian and you got my votes re power v hawks on the ground more than the players mate surely your busiest game yet ? Well put Noughts I no it is subjective but when your watching as a neutral and the umpiring stands out so much there is plenty wrong !Papa ad I have said I am bitterly disappointed re a lot of the umpires seeming,Kath and Kim attitude.Bizz it is the only sport in the world where a umpire has to perform a skill which has nothing to do with the game yes it’s tradition but so what get rid of it ! Paul fantastic point where,G Cornes and myself feel that,Port got crucified well people have gone to jail with less evidence.Chaplin don’t think you would get a burnt pie for him re trade thanks folks

  45. I find it quite bizarre that the rules committee constantly change their focus for each weeks round. Punching from behind, holding the ball, 10 metre rule when a player has marked the ball and ducking. This inconsistency must be very difficult for umpires to adapt to week in week out. The umpire will focus on other things then forget the basics of each rule interpretation. The problem is the rules committee not the umps. Bloody white/yellow/green/purple what ever colour they are each week bloody [email protected] ! ?

  46. “Law 15.2.3 Holding the Football (prior opportunity/no prior opportunity)

    (a) Where the field umpire is satisfied that a player in possession of the football:

    (i) has had a prior opportunity to dispose of the football, the field umpire shall award a free kick against that player if the player does not correctly dispose of the football immediately when they are correctly tackled;

    (ii) has not had a prior opportunity to dispose of the football, the field umpire shall award a free kick against that player if, upon being correctly tackled, the player does not correctly dispose or genuinely attempt to correctly dispose of the football after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so; or

    (iii) has driven their head into a stationary or near stationary opponent, the player shall be regarded as having had prior opportunity.”

    **If we get rid of sub-section (ii), wouldn’t most footy fans be happy with the interpretation around holding the ball?

  47. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Atchy yes the rules committee have well and truly done more harm than good just because some one has been a very good player does not make them a expert on what is best for the game.Paul totally agree it is a idiotic addition common sense a ball pinned to a player blow the whistle quickly and ball it up
    The interpretation and instruction given to the umpires is just so wrong.

  48. Spot on piece RB. Consistency is what we want to see, even if its consistently wrong.

    You know the umpires are in a muddle when the whistle blows and no one has a clue which way the free kick is going to go.

  49. SamTheMan says

    I agree with most of the things you have written but make these points:-
    1. Need at least 3 umps due the the speed of the game at that level, 2 umps would never acieve sideon positioning hence frees being missed.
    2. I believe the AFL has an agenda with umpiring to avoid stopages, speed up the game, hence less ballups, throwins. Arguing about holding the ball and deliberate oob is pointless as its currently undefendable.
    3. Dont blame the umps as they are instructed to ump this way.

  50. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dips definitely.Sam from your involvement in the game thank you and personally agree re the pace of the game for 3 umpires but the positioning and instructions are just fundamentally wrong as you no

  51. Brad Harris says

    Your comment about Shane Harris makes sense. There was a distinct turning point a few years ago. People used to say to me that I must enjoy the sanfl because of the better standard of umpiring compared to AFL. There was a period where I agreed. Now it’s possibly worse. At least the AFL is generally consistent in the poor interpretation, with the occasional aberration. The sanfl is generally a poor relation, inconsistent and hard to understand, particularly this year.

  52. charlie brown says

    Brad – agree with you about the SANFL umpiring this season. Have been to most North matches with one particular umpire’s performance against WWT last week appalling.

    Malcolm – can’t wait to read your comments about the Sydney vs Hwks match and those 2 x 50 metre penalties against the Swans.

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