Kennett hits back at AFL over umpiring - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kennett hits back at AFL over umpiring

29/04/2009 04:42:40 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has accused the AFL of making it harder to recruit and retain umpires by deliberately drawing attention to them.

Kennett will decide by Friday whether to attend a detailed umpiring seminar or have the club pay a $5000 fine after the AFL found he had made comments damaging to the best interests of the sport.

Speaking earlier this month, Kennett said the officials were now "almost bigger than the game".

A separate sanction was imposed on Hawthorn last year after coach Alastair Clarkson singled out field umpire Justin Schmitt for criticism following the round 17 loss to Geelong.

"We know we've got a responsibility to ensure that key figures within the game don't denigrate or humiliate umpires or umpiring," AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said on Radio 3AW on Wednesday in the wake of the finding against Kennett.

"We've got a report that says we won't be able to recruit or retain umpires if we don't have a strict approach on that."

Following Anderson's decision to go public, Kennett hit back hard via the club's website.

He publicly released the letter he sent to Anderson last week, after which the league imposed the sanctions.

Kennett claimed the AFL would be well advised to follow the example of soccer, where the rules are rarely changed and attention is not drawn to the referees.

The Hawthorn president said his criticism stemmed from watching matches this year both at the ground and on television and finding "the performance and inconsistency of umpires increasingly confusing and frustrating".

"This is not necessarily the umpires' fault alone but the result of regular rule changes by the AFL, and the increased focus on umpires by wiring or miking them for sound, which has made them a greater focus of attention," said Kennett in the letter to Anderson.

"The AFL sheets the miking of umpires to the broadcasters, but this is a cop out, as the AFL attempts to control every aspect of the game.

"The AFL has clearly sanctioned the miking of umpires and therefore they, the AFL, must accept responsibility for the increasingly difficult circumstances in which umpires are operating.

"... By removing the microphone from umpires you would reduce the public focus on them, you would also eliminate the intrusion that their running commentary often creates when watching a television broadcast.

"You might even consider removing the numbers from umpires backs. Numbers are worn by players.

"If you think (it) necessary replace them with their names to distinguish a player from an umpire.

"But again in soccer there are no numbers and no names. Why? To leave the umpire as anonymous as possible.

"... May I finally conclude that if you are serious about the welfare of umpires and attracting others to serve in the profession, the AFL should very seriously review their policies that are increasingly making the umpires the focus of attention."

The Hawthorn president also took issue with the AFL objecting to his use of the phrase "bloody umpires" in the interview with Radio SEN.

"I used the word bloody out of sheer frustration," he wrote.

"Akin I guess to the phrase `bloody idiots' being used to describe drink drivers.

"For better or worse, bloody is commonly used in Australia today."

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