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A goal umpire signalling a goal with two white flags, and a Boundary umpire.
A goal umpire signalling a goal with two white flags, and a Boundary umpire.

An umpire is an official in the sport of Australian rules football who adjudicates the game according to the "Laws Of The Game", the official handbook of Australian Rules Football.

Origins

Statue of Tom Wills umpiring one of the earliest recorded matches of Australian rules football
Statue of Tom Wills umpiring one of the earliest recorded matches of Australian rules football

Unlike many other codes of football, where the official is called a referee, in Australian rules football the officials are called umpires. Tom Wills, one of the founders of the Australian game, was the earliest known umpire of a football match in Australia.

At first the captains of both teams shared the duty of officiating games, however as the game became more professional in the 1880s, umpires became an important aspect of the game.

Types

A field umpire signalling holding the ball.
A field umpire signalling holding the ball.
A goal umpire officiating between the goal posts at one end of the football field.
A goal umpire officiating between the goal posts at one end of the football field.

There are four different types of umpires and one type of steward in a typical game of Australian Football:

Originally, only one field umpire was used. In 1976 a second field umpire was introduced in the Victorian Football League, and in 1994 this was expanded to three field umpires in the then-renamed Australian Football League.[4] Amateur, suburban, junior and semi-professional matches can be policed by any number from one to three field umpires.

There are generally two goal umpires in each game at all levels, one at each end of the ground; occasionally, the use of two goal umpires at each end of the ground has been trialled. Goal umpires traditionally wore a white jacket, black trousers and a broad-brimmed hat, however caps and shirts have replaced the hats and jackets. The caps they wear are generally lime green or grey. They are the only umpires to wear a cap.

In the professional level Australian Football League, there are four boundary umpires in each match with two umpires sharing control of each side of the ground. At lower levels, there are typically only two or three boundary umpires.

A boundary umpire throwing the football back into play
A boundary umpire throwing the football back into play

Provision of umpires

At the professional level, and at other high levels of the game, all umpires and officials are provided by the league's umpiring department. At lower levels, it is common for the competing clubs to each provide one goal umpire and one boundary umpire to the match, but field umpires are still almost always provided by the league.

Modern umpiring and the AFL

The game of Australian rules contains some "grey areas" where application of the laws is subject to interpretation, of degree or timing, making the job of field umpires extremely difficult. The instigation of new laws by the AFL in recent years, also contributes to the amount of work needed for umpires to maintain their skills and knowledge of the game. The umpires' director for the AFL is Jeff Gieschen, responsible for setting precedents for other affiliated leagues around the world.

Attire

An umpire dressed in all-white prepares a boundary throw-in, 1882. Two years earlier, George Coulthard, standing in middle of the group of players, became the first person to umpire a match in an all-white uniform.
An umpire dressed in all-white prepares a boundary throw-in, 1882. Two years earlier, George Coulthard, standing in middle of the group of players, became the first person to umpire a match in an all-white uniform.

Australian rules football umpires of all disciplines traditionally wore all-white uniforms. Goal umpires in particular wore a more formal attire of white jacket, white hat, tie and black slacks, as they were not required to actively run.[8]

More recently, umpires have begun wearing uniforms of a distinctive colour to avoid a jersey clash with any of the competing teams. As of 2013, all AFL umpires wore lime green uniforms with grey shorts or trousers, which avoids a clash with any of the league's teams. Additionally, field umpires in the AFL are identifiable by a jersey number.

The most common historical pejorative term for an umpire, particularly a field umpire, was "white maggot", in reference to their historical white uniforms.[9]

References

  1. ^ AFL Law 8.2.1
  2. ^ AFL Law 15.1
  3. ^ AFL Law 11.3
  4. ^ "History of Rule Changes". afl.com.au. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  5. ^ AFL Law 8.2.4
  6. ^ AFL Law 12
  7. ^ AFL Law 8.2.2
  8. ^ Gee, Mickey (10 March 2015). "My old mans a Goal Ump, he wears a dustmans cap". Season 2018 ~ Mick's AFL Footy Blog. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  9. ^ Footy moots 'white maggot' ban, Sunday Telegraph, 27 April 2007

See also