By: EFL Chief Executive Officer Phil Murton
Behaviour of players and spectators alike has been in the football media this year at AFL level with some examples of how not to behave being at the forefront.
In the EFL, we are no different. While we haven’t had any specific incidents this year, it’s always good to talk about what we don’t want so people understand our expectations.
When I tell people I work for the EFL, the main comment that often comes is that the environment we have both on and off the field is one to be proud of.
Players want to play here and people enjoy coming to watch, and are happy to bring females and kids along, due to the conduct on the field and off it.
But we don’t rest on our laurels. We have a diligent umpiring group prepared to hand out yellow cards or report when required.
A strong independent tribunal then oversees the tribunal process, while a quality group of investigators are on hand to look into incidents umpires may have missed or not seen.
Off field, clubs have bought into the ideal that a family friendly environment is what brings people and what is expected, and do much work ensuring the right environment on game day.
Most importantly, clubs no longer tolerate either their players doing the wrong thing nor the wrong thing being done to one of their own by the opposition.
It’s a good way to have it. Community standards have also shifted and the old adage of what happens on the field stays on the field, no matter what it was, has thankfully gone the way of boots with leather stops.
Reputations take a long time to build and only a short time to lose.
On the field, umpire abuse is now few and far between. Changing attitudes, yellow cards, reporting and suspensions have rightfully seen to that. Off the field there’s still work to do – at junior footy in particular.
Having a go at the umpires is almost seen as a rite of passage in our game. It has been acknowledged Aussie rules is one of the most difficult sports in the world to officiate.
As a Physical Education teacher in a former life, I’d umpired plenty of games of footy and other sports. But the half dozen or so games I umpired of reserves and under-19s footy while EFL Football Operations Manager made me realise the difficulty and the pressure of umpiring serious footy and getting it right.
If everyone had this experience I’ve no doubt we’d have a different appreciation of umpiring.
EFL Head of Umpiring Scott Van Noordennen and Junior Umpire Coach Sean Clarke have done a great job this year with our umpire recruitment. We’ve got 130 new umpires on board all learning their craft.
But just like your sons and daughters learning to play the game, so are these young umpires learning how to officiate. No one wants to make mistakes and our umpires are coached and developed more than ever before.
But the reality is mistakes will happen and like in all aspects of life, we hope the umpires learn from these.
Abuse from the sidelines isn’t warranted nor welcome. Do the parents of the umpires yell abuse over the fence at your son or daughter if they make a mistake?
Next time you feel the urge to say something, consider the umpire is developing just as the players are.
I remember watching my nephew play a game of rugby union up in Darwin a few years ago and admiring the respect that was shown to the umpires by the players and spectators alike.
While part of me thought it was because no one understands the rules of rugby, nonetheless it was good to see.
So this weekend, think about the kind of environment you want to play, support and be involved in, and behave accordingly. Expect the same of others around you.
Good luck to all teams and see you at the footy.