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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

Round 1
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CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
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