EDITORIAL: Umpires have a thankless task, but someone has to do it

MOST umpires of all sporting codes would agree — umpiring is a thankless task, a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

They cop it from the crowd and players alike, but they come back week after week to play an integral role in our sporting community and culture. 

They don’t always make the right decisions, who does? 

But, unlike most of us, when they make a wrong call they have to suffer the consequences in the public arena and that can be a spiteful, unforgiving and vicious place. 

Umpire Leigh McNaughton’s decision in the game between North Warrnambool Eagles and Port Fairy at the weekend was a howler that gifted the game to Port Fairy just before the siren.

As bad calls go, it took some beating.

The timing and the outcome of the decision could not have been worse for the Eagles but in the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship they didn’t make a big deal out of it, understanding perhaps that it is grossly unfair to judge a person on one bad decision alone.

Good umpires are hard to come by and getting it wrong occasionally is part of any game. 

McNaughton can take comfort out of the fact that he had the character and courage to be an umpire in the first place — not everyone can say that.

By all accounts, he’s an excellent official with a promising future and, like all those who understand that you learn from your mistakes and not your successes, he will come out the other end a better umpire.

The umpires’ association has been supportive, as it should be, and plans to study video footage of the incident to see what its members can learn from it. That’s called turning a negative into a positive and is absolutely the correct response. 

And to those spectators who think it’s OK to berate the umpires from the comfort of the sidelines, it might seem like harmless fun but in reality it’s just bullying and no one likes a bully.

 If you think you can do a better job, then go ahead and do it.

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