Hampden league considers outside umpires for key netball finals

IMPORTED umpires are likely to be sought to officiate Hampden league A grade netball finals matches.

Clubs have unanimously voted for independent umpires to be appointed for both A grade and A1 preliminary and grand finals.

In an unprecedented move, Hampden Football Netball League chief executive officer Mike Farrow is exploring whether Geelong or Ballarat-based officials can be hired later this season.

Bringing in imported umpires is likely to be seen as a slap in the face of existing independent umpires, who officiate on a weekly basis in the league.

Farrow said clubs had unanimously called for independent umpires through a vote at a forum involving all clubs. 

The motion will be considered by the league’s independent executive at a meeting on Monday.

Farrow said a lack of independent panel umpires was behind the call for more bias-free whistle blowers.

“We have lost a number of panel umpires over the years,” he said.

The panel includes four umpires who are available each week, plus a fifth person who is available every second game and a sixth who can be called on in emergencies.

The panel had five weekly members last year when the league decided home-and-away games would be shared by a home club umpire and independent umpire. The same arrangements are in place this year but there is a perception among some players and spectators that home umpires favour their teams.

In some finals matches last season, the league paired a club umpire with no ties to the competing clubs and a panel umpire in a bid to encourage and develop club umpires.

But Farrow said he was worried if umpires from other regions were brought in for preliminary and grand finals it could have a negative impact in the longer term.

“There needs to be a bit more thought,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would like to umpire all year and not get a preliminary or grand final.”

He suggested using an outside official alongside a panel umpire.

Farrow said the league had to reassess its umpires at the end of the season.

“We are getting a lot of very good umpires throughout the clubs but whether they will be panel umpires or want to stay with their club is the big question,” he said.

“Leah Sinnott, Stacey O’Sullivan are good club umpires and South Warrnambool have a number of badged umpires including Leah Kermeen. They are all good umpires and they are prospective panel umpires but will they want to leave their club?”

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