By Colin MacGillivray
A CALL for umpiring recruits has gone out on the eve of the 2021 football season amid a statewide shortage.
Umpiring bodies associated with the Riddell Football Netball League, Northern Football Netball League and AFL Outer East are all on the lookout for recruits.
Riddell Umpires president Addam Icely said there was a shortage of umpires in many regions of Victoria after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the 2020 football season.
“At the end of 2019 we had a touch over 100 members, and at this point in time we’ve got 70 umpires on our books. We’re hoping to find the other 30 who haven’t come back this year after a year off,” he said.
“COVID has caused havoc with umpire numbers. What we’ve found is that people have lost motivation, some have found weekend work and umpiring is no longer a priority, and you always get a small handful who are at the end of their umpiring careers.
“We’re still trying to recruit. We’re trying to hit up clubs to see if there are any players who want to help out, especially on a Sunday with our junior competition.”
Northern Football Netball League head of umpiring Cameron Nash said the league was also keen to entice new members.
He said some umpires could earn more than $300 a weekend tax free.
“Many parents volunteer as goal and boundary umpires in our matches – here’s the perfect opportunity to get paid for it,” he said.
Mr Icely said there were social as well as financial benefits to umpiring.
“At the end of the day we’re just like another footy team, except we’re not all at the same place on the one day,” he said.
“With our camaraderie, our social gatherings and training, we do come together and have a bit of fun. We’re not popular with fans and players alike, but we’ve got a job to do and without us the game is going to struggle.”
Mr Icely said clubs might be forced to supply their own boundary and goal umpires if there were not enough recruits.
“If there are no umpires, the clubs have then got to find volunteers willing to step up on a wet and muddy Saturday afternoon,” he said.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on filling all our panels for every game every week, and we’ve been able to do that up until this year.
“I know in some instances in the past there has been an honesty system, where if the ball goes out of bounds the field umpire comes 10 or 15 metres in from the boundary and just throws the ball up. That’s reasonably effective, but then you get those iffy ones that might be on the full and there is dispute involved.
“That’s not something we’ve had to consider for a very long time … probably since the late 90s.”
People interested in joining Riddell Umpires can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
People interested in joining Northern Football Netball League Umpiring can contact Cameron Nash on 9435 8228 or email@example.com.