IT takes a lot of guts to become an umpire of any sport – in particular, football.
Football umpires have a lot of responsibility – they have to keep eyes in the back of their head, as well as control a game involving 36 players at one time.
In the Barossa, Light & Gawler Football Association, these officials have it even tougher than those at a higher level, like the AFL.
These umpires need to control the occasional biff that happens on the oval, try to keep the game moving, while positioning themselves correctly to best adjudicate the game.
Only a few years ago, BL&G umpires could rest a little bit easier as they could be assisted with any on-field incident, with clubs able to report an opposition player for an indiscretion and allow the commission to apply the appropriate penalty.
However, that rule was abolished and then the ‘sit umpire’ was introduced as a replacement.
The sit umpire’s role was to be the back-up umpire, and be an extra set of eyes to catch any on-field indiscretions that the central umpire might miss.
Yet, the sit umpire has since been canned as well, leaving only two field umpires to monitor the entire game on their own.
In the BL&GFA, when a player is reported, the field umpire must inform the player of the report either at the time of the report or at the next break, and then the club must follow up after the match.
Clubs must speak to the umpires to find out about reports after the match, so that they can then decide whether to fight the report at the tribunal.
If they forget to check with the umpires for any reports, then it’s a case of ‘bad luck’ – which is what is understood to have happened with Gawler Central this past week.
Tiger star Andrew Wright missed Saturday’s game, and will also be sidelined this weekend, after copping a two-week suspension for attempted striking in the round six game against Freeling.
Gawler Central, allegedly, was unaware of the report and looming penalty, and didn’t find out until too late, meaning the club was unable to fight the charge.
By not being made aware of the report, the Tigers are left without one of their best players for two games.
That is completely unacceptable, and proves that the current system is flawed.
What should happen is: umpires fill out a report and present it to a relevant club official after the match.
Then, have both the umpire and a club official sign it, and have each keep a copy – that way there is proof that both parties are aware of the report.
The current protocol is too disjointed and places far too much responsibility on club volunteers to chase umpires to find out if any of their players have been reported.
Furthermore, for the safety of the players on the ground – which is of utmost importance – and for less confusion, the league must reinstall a sit umpire, or bring back the club reporting system.
We need one of the two.