Round 8 of the AFL Premiership this week end has been ear marked as the “THANKS UMP” Round. There has been good media coverage and advertisements in the broader media outlining the plight of the umpire and how all match day participants can interact together to have a positive impact on the match day environment.
The guts of this message is that everyone, including umpires, can have a positive impact on the game but in reality it comes down to whether we chose to do something about it or not. Change like this only starts with campaigns like the “THANKS UMP” Round but they end when we all alter our own behaviors and actions.
This promotion is needed because the gap between the number of umpire appointments requiring filling every weekend and the number of umpires available is getting larger and larger. Recruiting umpires is easy; it is the retention of them that is the problem. Ultimately by creating a positive environment will improve the retention of umpires within the game and reduce the exodus of umpires who no longer enjoy the game.
Research conducted nationally indicates that 64% of umpires started umpiring due to their ‘love of the game’. Umpires ranked fun, fitness and involvement in sport as being more important for their ongoing participation than the cash they receive. These findings explain why umpires drop out in response to abuse and poor match day environments. Once they can no longer tolerate the abuse and stop enjoying their involvement they cease umpiring. The money is not a sufficient incentive for them to keep involved.
This battle for the hearts and minds is being driven through the “Umpiring is Everyone’s Business” campaigns that the AFL and AFLQ run across Queensland. To promote awareness of this program, AFL Queensland is asking all umpires, players and coaches and spectators to show support for the campaign by placing green tape on their right arm and around their boots during all matches played on this week end.
Coaches have the greatest influence on match day. They are not the only influence but they are the strongest. Coaches need to ensure their players and support staff behave in an appropriate manner. All coaches must understand their influence over a club and the impact they have on creating a positive match day environment particularly at a community level
If we continue to see the lack of umpire numbers at the grass root level as an umpiring problem we will never close the gap. However if we view the problem as a community problem then all stakeholders have a role.
Like all change it starts by being aware of the problem. I encourage everyone to get involved and wear the green tape on their right arm to promote awareness of the Umpiring is everyone’s campaign. Small changes at a community level can make the environment a better place not only for umpires but all people either current or new to AFL.
Get involved on the weekend and have a positive impact on the game.