AFL Western District is stumping up $10,000 to help recruit 100 football umpires in 100 days.
The initiative, developed to encourage people to take up the whistle, will include the region's three umpiring bodies - Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association, Western District Football Umpires in Hamilton and South West Football Umpires in Portland.
A new umpire will be eligible for $100 - which will subsequently pay for their uniform - after they've completed five rounds.
AFL Western District region manager Matt Ross said it was important umpiring numbers were healthy across the region's competitions, including Hampden, Warrnambool and District, Mininera and District, South West District and Western Victoria Female Football League.
"It is a bit aspirational but if we can get the community's support and get all the stakeholders involved - clubs, leagues, umpiring groups -(and highlight) umpiring is a pretty good gig to get involved in hopefully we'll make it," he told The Standard.
"If there's not enough umpires then pressure falls back on clubs to supply umpires.
"From clubland, the experience is, sometimes, that club umpires aren't the most objective officiators of matches."
Ross encouraged people to chip in, particularly with the emergence of female teams and the need for more hands on deck.
"It is a great thing to get involved in, there's not many jobs out there where you can run around with your mates, get paid for it and get fit," he said.
New WDFUA president and long-time central umpire Gavin Sell said people in their 20s or retired footballers would help fill a void.
"We normally do well getting into schools and can grab 20-odd kids (to become umpires) but it's really that senior group we need to target," he said.
"Ex-footballers are sometimes the better umpires so they're the ones we'd really love to come and see what it's all about and get involved."
Sell said the 100 umpires in 100 days idea, plus contributions from the AFL meant it was accessible.
"The AFL has waived part of the registration fee and our association has dropped the registration fee as well. We are trying to make it a minimal cost to get into umpiring," he said.
WDFUA director of umpiring Nicole Downie admitted it was "always struggling for numbers" and urged those with an interest to touch base.
"We'd like 20 or 30 more and hopefully this initiative gets people across the line," she said.
Downie said cars left Reid Oval on game days to take junior umpires to their matches, allaying travel commitments for parents.
WDFUA's official pre-season starts Monday, February 21 at the newly redeveloped Reid Oval.
It will run an hour from 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.
People can register wdfua.com.au.
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