It’s no secret that umpires at any level of Australian Rules Football face a very difficult task. Being in charge of 36 players on a field usually over 170 metres in length, with some of the most complicated rules in any sport across the globe, is never going to be easy. Include the sideline heckles that are often hurled at them by passionate fans all the way from junior grassroots to the national stage, it seems like a thankless task.
While this would put a lot of people off from pursuing umpiring Australian rules in any capacity, there are also many benefits that come from it, such as being an excellent way to keep fit both physically and mentally. By having to understand and implement so many rules at any given time, improves your reaction time while also exercising your brain.
Australian Rules is touted as an emotional game, and tempers often flare at any given stage between opposing players. This means that as an umpire, you always have to be on your feet and ready to take action. If you second guess yourself and no decision is made in the heat of the moment, you can often lose control of the game as the flaring tempers can often quickly turn into a physical confrontation. This goes to show that if you intend on umpiring, you need to be dominant on the field.
While Australian Rules is one of the most difficult sports to officiate, it brings many benefits both physically and mentally. These benefits have the potential to be rewarding for a long time, if not for the rest of your life. Umpiring can also be financially rewarding even at the grassroots level, where payments can be upwards of $100 a match in some cases.
There are many positives that come with umpiring Australia's national sport, but in saying that, there are also some major negatives that need to be discussed. Australian Rules fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world, and this passion can often cross the line, to which the umpires cop the brunt of. This can have serious mental effects in the long run as when things go pear shaped, the umpires are usually made out to be the scapegoat.
Another negative that can come with umpiring is the potential for conflict of interest, especially if umpiring at the local level. There can be times where you end up officiating your mates, or a club you support, which can be a potential detriment as any decision you call in their favour won’t end well with the opposing team. While decisions should always be fair and without bias, these conflicts often mean there is much unneeded pressure on you as an umpire and can even lead to friendships and relationships falling apart if you choose to be unfair in any way, shape or form. The only advice if this situation arises for you is to umpire how you would officiate any other game!
To summarise, Umpiring Australian Rules Football takes thorough training and effort, but if you are up for the challenge, then it is a great way to stay active and social within your local community!