On The Mark: Community Umpiring Week

  • Integrity Blog

May 6 – 13 commemorated Community Umpiring Week, spearheaded by the AFL, the initiative aims to promote respect for the invaluable contribution of umpires around the country.

To celebrate the initiative more than 80 AFL umpires attended umpire training sessions and officiated in local junior footy matches.

AFL umpire Nathan Williamson bounces the ball in the centre circle of an AFL game

Umpires and referees across all sports play an integral role in the function of the game, allowing countless community and club-level games to play on till the final whistle.

AFL field umpire Nathan Williamson says it’s crucial to offer support to emerging umpires to allow our sports to grow.

“We know umpires have one of the toughest jobs in the game and we need to respect the contribution they make each week – without them, the ball wouldn’t  be bounced,” Mr Williamson says.

“Community Umpiring Week gives us the chance to celebrate and recognise the more than 17,000 registered AFL umpires we have across all levels of Australian footy.

“As the game continues to grow, we need to keep attracting more umpires into the system, and then ensuring they are being supported in the best possible way.”

Inspired by his father, a community umpire in country Western Australia, Williamson says that umpiring can be challenging at times but equally, if not more, rewarding.

“There are many benefits to umpiring and it provides a great opportunity for people to connect with footy regardless of age, gender and football experience. There’s also health, wellbeing and social benefits too,” he says.

Codes across the sporting landscape, including football, AFL and the NRL, are working hard to protect and promote the work of umpires and referees.

Former football referee of 25 years and now SIA's National Integrity Manager Network Lead, Gary Vandeburgt says the key to cultivating competent and confident officials is to give them an environment free of abuse, that allows them to grow into the best referees and umpires they can be.

“Referees or umpires provide an impartial assessment on incidents in matches, without someone prepared to step up and referee, either in a paid or volunteer capacity the game can’t go ahead,” Mr Vandeburgt says.

“As a community, we need to take a breath before we abuse an official, referees are human and just like the players they may make mistakes, but just because a decision went against your team, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

“We hear it all the time, ‘I am just passionate’ but passion is not an excuse for abuse. A constructive way to channel that passion is to become an umpire or referee, your sport could definitely do with your passion on the pitch!”

Sport Integrity Australia’s Play the Aussie Way awareness campaign is aimed at supporting these initiatives in sport and creating a safe, clean and fair environment for everyone including umpires and referees.

What can you do?

To learn more about how to address poor sideline behaviour and access resources, you can visit Play by the Rules or the Sport Integrity Australia website.

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