WARRNAMBOOL and District Football Umpires’ Association (WDFUA) is increasingly confident clubs will not have to regularly supply whistle-blowers for senior matches.
An effective recruiting campaign coupled with umpires coming out of the woodwork has alleviated what loomed as a serious numbers crisis.
WDFUA director of umpiring Arno Pennings last month told The Standard that Warrnambool and District league clubs might have to supply umpires for senior fixtures.
The looming lack of umpires was such that Hampden league clubs would have to do likewise for under 18, 16 and 14 matches.
The situation came about because the Hamilton-based Western District Umpires’ Association withdrew its support of the WDFNL.
But the HFNL and WDFNL were both in action on the weekend for the first time this season — and only one match went without a full team of officials.
That was at Timboon, where Timboon Demons hosted Dennington in the WDFNL. The competing clubs supplied boundary umpires for the seniors.
A full team includes two central, three or four boundary and two goal umpires at senior level; and two central umpires for the underage grades.
WDFUA president Gavin Sell said he was confident club-supplied umpires for WDFNL seniors would be a rarity this season.
“In an ideal world that wouldn’t happen but at some stage we might have to be realistic and say it might. But we’re talking crystal ball stuff,” he said.
“At the moment we’ve got some recruits coming through and some of our junior development central umpires who are pretty close to coming up if needed.”
Sell said the numbers situation had improved to the point where umpires were rarely officiating two matches of a weekend.
He said the WDFUA has signed up “12 to 15” recruits this season. “That’s a mixture of goal, boundary and central umpires.”
“The real positive thing this year is we did recruit hard, we went gung-ho at it knowing we had to and we’re starting to see those results now,” he said.
But would-be umpires are still welcome to attend training at Reid Oval on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Recruiting boundary umpires remains a priority.
“Some games you’re putting four kids out there, but that’s because of their ability. We don’t want to be burning them out,” Sell said.
“At the end of the day we’ve got a duty of care to the umpires and also to the leagues. We’re managing that as well as we can.
“We’re working with both leagues. If there are any issues, we want to make sure we’re on top of them.”