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Cost-cutting gives umps the hump

Umpires remain determined that their pay increases should prove proportionate to the players.

Umpires remain determined that their pay increases should prove proportionate to the players. Photo: Getty Images

THE prospect of trialling full-time umpires could fall victim to the AFL's savage cost-cutting campaign with the game's officiators also yet to reach a new pay deal with head office a full year after their last collective-bargaining agreement expired.

AFL umpires, owed thousands in back pay, have been frustrated by the failure to finalise terms almost two years after negotiations began for a new five-year agreement. The deal was to be in line with the AFL players' agreement last December.

The last delay was of the umpires choosing with the AFL Umpires Association putting off talks for one month to ensure its members were not distracted during the finals campaign by any potential stand-off.

Facing significant physical and mental demands given the increasing pace of the game and determined that their crucial part in the game is acknowledged as the competition grows, the umpires remain determined that their pay increases should prove proportionate to the players.

The two parties returned to the negotiating table three days ago with the umpires still confident of an estimated 22 per cent pay rise over the five-year term backdated from the start of the 2012 season.

The Age understands the AFL Umpires Association, which replaced its previous boss Bill Deller with new chief executive Peter Howe last November, has offered some cost-cutting solutions of its own to get the deal done.

Those measures include re-balancing the umpires' pay structure by significantly increasing their annual base payments but holding match payments in a bid to save the AFL significant injury payments.

The umpires have also proposed a move to slash travel costs by fielding local boundary and goal umpires in

their home cities. During the season it was revealed the AFL had embarked on a $5 million annual cost-cutting campaign.

AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson, who is leading the negotiations for the league, said it would be wrong to construe the lengthy delay as insulting to the umpires - key stakeholders in the game but one key group whose numbers have not increased in line with others in the football industry.

''The broadcast rights were completed late,'' said Anderson, ''and the agreement with the players was late and then we had the five-year distributions to the clubs. Umpires have traditionally been the last group that we deal with.''

While the umpires believe the trialling of full-time officiators will be shelved Anderson said: ''Not necessarily. We haven't abandoned it altogether and I wouldn't count it out just yet.''

Said Howe: ''The negotiations are continuing and we're hopeful they'll be completed by the end of October.''

The best AFL field umpires earned more than $100,000 this year even before back payments. All umpires who officiate more than 10 senior games also receive bonuses.

This season the AFL's 32 field umpires, who received only the 3.1 per cent CPI rise, earned $56,000 in base payments and $1300 a match. Field umpires in the first two weeks of the finals were paid a further $7000 for those games.

Brett Rosebury, Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and Mat Nicholls each earned about $17,000 for umpiring the 2012 grand final.

The AFL umpiring budget for 2012 - the game also employs 42 boundary and 27 goal umpires - was about $9 million.

17 comments so far

  • I suspect the fiasco that was the NFL referees' strike will make the AFL think twice about pushing the umpires to striking point (a fact I doubt the umpires were slow to point out).

    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 12:08AM
    • Umpires work full time in another job, the fact they get paid up to 50 to 100k on top of their normal salary is an amazing deal, can’t believe they are fighting so hard for more, how about putting a little extra in the lower leagues to encourage young umpires to get into it. Physically demanding? Haha, running boundary with only 1 umpire on each side in a local football ball match in a mud pit is physically demanding, running it with 2 on each side on the pristine MCG grass is a nice day out. Oh I am adult; I get paid $60 a game in the local leagues.

      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 8:05AM
  • How much does the video umpire get? There's some savings to be made by abolishing that role!

    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 7:19AM
    • I would be very happy to see the umpires paid $17,000 a game for every home and away game, if only they umpired as they did during the Grand Final.
      It seems that the direction must be coming from the top for this game; "do not make a dick of yourself". Or "the eyes of the world are on you, you are to be seen and not heard".
      The Umpiring in the Grand Final is traditionally the best umpired game of the year. Why? The rest of the year, the Umpires are trialling new rules, inconsistently implementing the rules we have, or manipulating the game, either for their own pontification or to influence a result.
      It makes extremely frustrated viewing and one has to ask why this is.
      Leave the game alone and let the players play. Pay the Umpires what they are worth, but make sure they are not influencing the game.

      Tiger of Old
      Carlton North
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 7:32AM
      • You're so right Tiger. That makes perfect sense. Umpires go out there to "pontificate and influence the result". They sit in the room before the game and work out their strategy . . . pay these free kicks, grandstand a bit, draw attention to yourself. We all know that's what they do, but you've just had the courage to say it. Good on you.

        This is completely logical, because if they pontificate and influence the result enough during the season, they keep getting selected to umpire. If they keep getting selected and pontificate enough and influence enough results, they are ranked as the best on the list. The pay off for being the best (pontificator and influencer) is they progress through to the grand final where they earn $17,000. At this point they don't need to pontificate anymore and the teams can decide the result.

        You've explained it so well.

        You should write more letters my good man.

        Dom in the Den
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 8:43AM
    • Endorsements, club sponsor connections, media etc. all give full-time footballers the chance to maximise opportunities for after their playing career.

      Would full time umpires be afforded the same opportunities? They would deserve it, but do we really want to see more of them than we already do?

      Be careful what you wish for.

      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 9:32AM
      • Pay the umpires well. If anyone in the game deserves a good pay its the umps.

        They do a pretty thankless job and have to try and inforce some pretty grey rules.

        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 9:42AM
        • Significant physical demands? Ever watched the third umpire standing around doing nothing 100 metres from the play. Ever watched the umpires come off after the game? Not even remotely close to being exhausted.
          By all means pay them whatever they are worth but if they actually put in a real physical effort and got themselves (all three) into better position by running more and running harder to position to enable them to make more accurate decisions, the game would undoubtedly be umpired better.

          Date and time
          October 12, 2012, 9:46AM
          • "Not even remotely close to being exhausted. "

            It's called being fit. I don't think you can say they are constantly out of position.

            Date and time
            October 12, 2012, 10:41AM
          • Well I've certainly seen full forwards "standing around doing nothing 100 metres from the play" too! I've also seen field and boundary umpires compete in athletics events at the Olympics.

            If you want umpires walking off the ground looking exhausted, you can also accept the same impaired decision-making late in quarters that affects so many players.

            I'm no umpire lover Jeff, but your argument is ridiculous. Sounds like the words of an old fart.

            Date and time
            October 12, 2012, 3:09PM

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