AFLNT and our clubs do not condone umpire abuse; we want our competitions to be a zero-tolerance zone.
This is not a quick fix though, and it requires work with all parties to engage in a collaborative manner.
Comments in the newspaper on Sunday were in direct response to a question regarding an informal meeting or catch-up per se between the NTFL Umpiring Association (NTFLUA) President, Ashley Manicaros and me. Ashley met with me before Christmas to catch up about umpiring in general; we spoke about the new umpire strategy, upgrades to facilities and the Tribunal process amongst other things. One of his suggestions was we re-introduce mandatory two-week suspensions for any player who abuses an umpire. I told him we would certainly look into it as part of our post-season review and coupled with the new five-year NT umpiring strategic plan.
To date, the data tells us that reported instances of umpire abuse across the Men’s Premier League, Women’s Premier League, Men’s Division 1 and Men’s Division 2, as well as adults in junior competitions, are down on the previous season.
In the 2017/18 TIO NTFL, there were 16 reported instances of umpire abuse up to the end of Round 16. So far, this 2018/19 season to the end of Round 16 there have been eight reported instances.
We believe zero should be the only number acceptable here, so eight instances of reported abuse do not make us happy, but contrary to what is being purported it does not highlight an upwards trend in this behaviour.
Six months ago, we began our review into NT umpiring, and over that time have worked closely with all stakeholders; umpires, clubs, leagues, staff and community leaders to formulate a five-year strategic plan we will be releasing to the NTFLUA and club presidents in the next three weeks. This plan contains 11 key recommendations relating to umpiring, in the aim of creating a strong, positive and supportive environment that promotes continual development and is conducive to retaining umpires.
The review highlights how important umpires are to the long-term future of NT football.
While abuse on the footy field is never acceptable and respectful relationships need to be adopted by all involved, there is an established complaints process that all clubs and the umpires have available to them.
The umpires especially are in a position of control when an instance of abuse does rear its head; they can reward a free kick and a 50-metre penalty, report a player or official to the MRP and issue yellow and red cards for non-Premier League games.
AFLNT appreciates the hard work umpires do on the field and can assure them that while the MRP and Tribunal process remains independent that all reportable offences are dealt with through those channels.
We encourage the umpires to continue to sanction players and officials as per the Laws of the Game and follow the process and avenues available to them, so that come season’s end we have the right data to make informed decisions.
AFLNT has placed a priority on working collaboratively with all stakeholders, so I encourage the NTFLUA and its members to meet with myself and the executive, so we can address any concerns that they may have.