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AFL boss oversteps mark on umps

In the firing line: Umpire Troy Pannell gives a Hawthorn free kick yesterday.

In the firing line: Umpire Troy Pannell gives a Hawthorn free kick yesterday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has never been a big fan of Twitter, not only because he seems to believe it's a forum for people to talk about their shopping or toilet habits, but because he thinks it makes people run off at the mouth.

"If we were all allowed to say everything we wanted to say, we'd be in a bit of strife, particularly me, so you do have to act responsibly," he mused on Friday, fully five seconds before coming up with arguably the most ridiculous and far-fetched analogy of the football year.

Demetriou defended the league's hardline stance on criticism of umpires, making the usual points about the difficulty of attracting people to the job, and the responsibilities that come with freedom of speech He supported his argument with a comparison to disgraced Melbourne sponsor Ben Polis' Facebook rants about a variety of ethnic groups, women, and residents of Frankston.

So a couple of Carlton players dared tweet their disapproval of the umpiring in last Thursday night's game, and suddenly they're being equated with a racist misogynist? Now that's offensive.

AFL umpires by and large do a pretty decent job, particularly given the extra range of responsibilities they've had to take on in recent years. And there is clearly a need to keep umpiring as a desirable football career path.

But I don't buy the theory that some teenage kid is going to abandon plans to pick up a whistle because a couple of AFL players had a mild go at decisions in one particular game.

To suggest that Marc Murphy tweeting that the umpires had "ruined a good game" creates a culture that encourages far more ritual and personal abuse of umpires at lower levels is drawing a pretty long bow.

And frankly, one that makes the AFL umps, all of whom are seasoned professionals and would barely bat an eyelid at Murphy's comments, look overly precious. Which a vast majority are not.

Partly due to Twitter, AFL players these days cop more sustained and personal abuse for making blunders than the umpires do. It doesn't seem to stop little Johnny having a crack at Auskick. A kid thinking about an umpiring career surely can't be naive enough to think he's not going to cop the odd spray from a player. And if he is, how's he going to cope with what comes his way from over the fence at an AFL game?

Murphy's teammate Jeremy Laidler wasn't even that blunt. "Are you not meant to try and be first in at the footy anymore? If you do, you will be pinned for holding the ball. Shocking!!!"

His comment was an immediate response to one of the poorer decisions of this season, the holding the ball paid against Aaron Joseph, with the Carlton defender pinned on his back, a posse of opponents piled on top, and the ball not even in his grasp by the time the free was paid.

There's been a few similar shockers this year, where the fundamental objective of the game - winning the ball - has been trumped by a silly symbolic requirement for a player to madly wave his arms around, supposedly demonstrating his intent to release it, even if it's physically impossible.

Of course that's going to frustrate players who have spent a whole lifetime trying to beat their opponent to the contest. Are they not allowed to let off a little steam about it? And can we not have a serious discussion about umpiring without everyone pussyfooting around the issues lest they cop a rap over the knuckles from an administration offended on someone else's behalf?

Does it mean there's an umpiring crisis? Of course not. But if the AFL wants the focus kept away from forensic inspection of umpiring, its heavy-handedness about a couple of tweets was about the worst course it could have pursued.

Yesterday, Nick Riewoldt and Matthew Richardson, among others, weighed in, the St Kilda skipper suggesting umpires' boss Jeff Gieschen should front the media each week to explain controversial decisions.

Gieschen already does that on the AFL's own website. But how many people care to watch other than when a decision is as blatantly frustrating as that free kick against Joseph?

Whether the football public wants or needs a blow-by-blow account of decisions is doubtful.

We probably wouldn't be talking about it had a couple of players been given a little latitude for a heat-of-the-moment remark.

Instead we got a lecture about our responsibilities, a stupendous bit of dramatic hyperbole from the AFL boss, and a role that most agree works best when it's a case of seen and not heard, gets thrust under the microscope again.

82 comments

  • Well Demetri you say players commenting on Umpires is like racial comments. What a joke and offensive statement that is. I'm of Italian heritage and all through my years of sport i and most of my team mates were always been racially abused. We never got paid to play sport so we played for fun. Now those umpires are paid a fair sum of money so they should be up for fair criticism just as the AFL players are up for criticism for missing that goal or miss kicking the footy or walking across the road with a skirt on on mad Mondays. Demetri get in the real world and just accept human error does occur, as it did on several occasions on Friday night in Perth. It did cost the game to Carlton and it may just end a job for the coach of Carlton. But that's fine keep protecting the men in white even when they stuff up a game of footy.

    Commenter
    AM of MTG
    Date and time
    June 17, 2012, 11:35PM
    • you're right, "human error" does occur - the game was on thursday night!

      Commenter
      blues man
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 2:33AM
    • Kerr was pinged for exactly the same thing as Joseph. It's not the umpires that are biased!!!

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 10:58AM
    • cost them the game??? carlton lost the game because they didn't play 4 quarters of good footy, not because of the umpires!

      Commenter
      jimmi
      Location
      perth
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 4:17PM
  • Good article. What about the 50 metre penalty against Juddy who elbow hit an opposition player's arm? You see that every week but I have never seen a 50 metre penalty given. There were a number of bad decisions in the first quarter and a number of infringements that the umpire let go. How can you enjoy the game when each week the umpire is following slightly different versions of the rules. A more consistent approach would be appreciated. Free speech forever!

    Commenter
    Mr Banana
    Date and time
    June 17, 2012, 11:42PM
    • The elbow was the last act in a long line of beligerence from Judd. He had been warned by the umpires not to go on with it. I just think it is such a shock to Carlton sycophants that Judd could be penalised for anything ever.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 11:02AM
    • Judd was warned not to do it, then he did it again. Elbowing people is clearly against the rules. So, while soft, he was warned there would be consequences and ignored the possibility as he was sick of getting his butt kicked all game.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 12:24PM
    • Home ground advantage... the rules always change based on the crowd in the vicinity. When 30,000 people yell "ball" it can be pretty convincing. Always has and always will happen. Interestingly, I noticed that Richmond got most of their free kicks on the wing in front of their fans on Saturady afternoon. The rules don't change, but the 50/50 calls get influenced by the crowd. Even your view of events is always clouded by your allegiances. Umpires do a good job, but the rules are crazy at present. Never see in the back paid anymore but plenty of holding the ball. Should be the other way around.

      Commenter
      af
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 5:38PM
  • Right on Rohan. Mr Demetriou many of us are wondering why the player making every effort to play the ball is sometimes dealt with so harshly by the "holding the ball rule"
    I notice that the "rolling scrums" have been dealt with by umpires reverting to a quick ball up rather then letting the scrum go on and on as has been happening this season. Nothing to do with the interchange but just the way the scrums are dealt with.
    Second last point. For holding the ball just make it simple. If there was no prior opportunity then ball it up very quickly. If there was prior opportunity then its a free kick to the tackler. Dispense with all the variations on correct, incorrect and attempted disposal requirements they are just rubbish.
    Finally be tougher on throws. Pay a free every time the player throws the ball.

    Commenter
    Hawkeye
    Date and time
    June 18, 2012, 12:53AM
    • Right on regarding "prior opportunity" and "holding the ball" - it's rubbish! In many cases the tackle which is rewarded isn't a tackle at all - once a player is deemed to have "prior opportunity" they only need to be touched and they are penalised. If the ball is lost in a tackle it should always be "play on"!
      Also, do umpires do any training to improve their spatial skills? They have no concept of distance, marks consistently paid for 8 - 12 metre kicks!

      Commenter
      Brian
      Location
      Wagga Wagga
      Date and time
      June 18, 2012, 1:17PM

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AFL 2015

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CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
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MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
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STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
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HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
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WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
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RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
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GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
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Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
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Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
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STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
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BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
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Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
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RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
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MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
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Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
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Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
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Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($2.40)vs GWS ($1.57) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
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AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
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