WARRNAMBOOL and District Cricket Association (WDCA) has sensationally ended its relationship with the Warrnambool Cricket Umpires’ Association (WCUA).
The decision is one of the biggest shake-ups to cricket umpiring in the region and has put the future of the long-standing WCUA in jeopardy.
Under the new arrangement, the WDCA will take control of the recruitment, development and match appointments from next season.
Umpires have also received a club-funded pay rise. Those taking charge in division one matches on their own will take home $160 tax free, up from $120.
When there are two umpires controlling a top-grade match, each will earn $120, up from $110. The pay scale is sliding for lower-grade matches.
The other major change is there will be only one umpire in charge of division one matches — unless every other appointment in the WDCA is filled.
WDCA chairman Nick Frampton said the decision was due to dwindling umpire numbers. He said the WDCA was best-placed to implement a solution.
Frampton said initiatives to help the WCUA with recruitment and retention had attracted seven new umpires, but overall numbers were still down.
“Unfortunately some division two and virtually all division three matches proceeded without an umpire this season,” he said.
“This has caused considerable disquiet amongst many of our clubs. To this end, the association has determined that ... it is best-placed to deliver the future training and development of umpires in the Warrnambool region.”
Frampton said the WDCA would appoint a new “umpiring manager”— a $4000-a-year position — to implement the program.
The hunt for new umpires is also under way, with Frampton keen on having females put their hands up for the role.
“We’re looking for anybody with a passion for cricket who might be interested in taking up umpiring next season,” he said.
But the new arrangement is yet to receive the backing of existing umpires — a factor which could determine its success or failure.
WCUA members will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to support the changes.
“We’re being very positive about it, they’re all welcome to come across,” WDCA general manager Michael Harrison said.
“They would’ve received a letter from us stating what’s going on. We’d love to have everyone who umpires cricket in the WDCA be a part of it.”
WCUA president Charlie Rivett said it was “premature” to say his group would have no role in managing umpiring in the WDCA.
“The board has no power to get rid of us. They want control of everything, I doubt the umpires will allow it,” he said.
Rivett said he was unsure what the WCUA’s next move would be until after the meeting, although he was disappointed with the top-down approach of the WDCA.
“We had an agreement last year to work together and they’ve thrown that out the window,” he said.