Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association is seeking aid from clubs as it tackles umpire numbers crisis

DARK TIMES: Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association is calling for help to overcome a numbers shortage. Picture: Rob Gunstone
DARK TIMES: Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association is calling for help to overcome a numbers shortage. Picture: Rob Gunstone

AT least one Warrnambool and district league senior football match will be without supplied umpires this season.

The Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association was unable to supply field umpires for Saturday’s Merrivale versus East Warrnambool clash because of a lack of members.

The clubs called on veterans Locky Eccles and Nigel Pedler to step up.

The association’s president Steve Walker said the shortage was unavoidable.

“It hasn't been something that has popped up yesterday,” Walker said. “This has been out there for years and it's not something anyone has been caught out by, these things were always going to eventually occur and they have been flagged.

“It's just now it’s got wider attention, because rather than being a once-off last year it's a regular occurrence where a game doesn't have field, boundary or goal umpires and the shortage is suddenly highlighted.”

Walker said there was no quick fix. Several long-time senior field umpires have scaled back their commitments because of age, fitness and time reasons. 

He said combination increasing the pay, retaining junior umpires and recruiting ex-footballers could boost numbers. He said the 10 Hampden and 11 Warrnambool and District league clubs could assist.

“I'd love to see clubs being proactive with people who don't want to play footy but want to stay involved in the game,” he said.

“If you were at a club who had two or three people wanting to do that sort of stuff that's where the umpires association might be able to say ‘hang on, you guys want to take up umpiring, how can we help you train and encourage them to do it’.

“We’re like any other footy club. We train Monday and Wednesday, have a meal on Wednesday night and we go out and do our games on Saturday and come back to the club. Whether you like it or not we are one of the teams out on the field.”

The region’s umpires associations, leagues and AFL Western District needed to develop a plan for sustainable umpire growth.