Umpire (Australian rules football)

An umpire is an official in the sport of Australian rules football.


Unlike many other codes of football, where the official is called a "referee", in Australian Football, the officials borrow their title from the game of cricket, which is played on the same types of fields and was an important aspect in the origin of the code (umpires sometimes officiated both sports in the early days of the game).

At first the captains of both teams shared the duty of officiating games, however as the game became more professional in the 1880s, umpires became an important aspect of the game.


There are 4 different types of umpires in a typical game of Australian Football:

* Field Umpire - (equivalent of a "referee" in many other games) (sometimes referred to derogatorily by Aussie Rules fans as "white maggot" - see below) there are typically 3 at professional level (Australian Football League - as introduced in the 1990s) and 1 or 2 at amateur and semi-professional level. The AFL has trialled 4 umpires in the pre-season cup. Field umpires are generally responsible for doing a "bounce down" and "ball-up" during stoppages, awarding free kicks, penalties and reports.

* Boundary Umpire - (equivalent of a "linesman" in many other games) There are 4 boundary umpires, two on each side of the field. The responsibility of boundary umpires is to determine if the ball has left the field of play, in which case they may throw the ball back in to play (a "throw in") if it touches the ground first, or advise the field umpire if the ball went out on the full (to award a free kick to the opposition team). Boundary umpires also return the ball to the umpire in the centre circle to recommence play. The AFL has trialled (also in the pre-season cup) allowing the boundary umpires to pay free-kicks in a similar fashion to field umpires when they observe an obvious offence that no field umpire has seen. This was a one-off trial and the AFL has said that, at this stage, there are no plans to develop this kind of umpiring any further.Fact|date=September 2008

* Goal Umpire - Only one at each end of the field. The goal umpires are the official score keepers who signal goals and behinds and work in tandem with the boundary umpires when the ball goes out of play near the goal posts. Goal umpires signal scores either by raising their arms in front of them at waist height, using one for a behind and two for a goal. After a score the goal umpires at both ends wave flags to confirm the score. After each quarter the umpires check their scores and if they agree with the score on the board they wave their flags to the timekeepers. Goal umpires traditionally wore a white suit and coat. Two goal umpires at each end have been suggested and trialled at times to reduce errors of judgement.

* Emergency Umpire - used as a replacement if an umpire gets injured. Also monitors the play from the bench for behind play incidents and will enter the field if required to diffuse scuffles and fights between players and the "blood rule". Like field umpires they have the ability to report or sometimes send off players. Oversees other officials, such as club runners and interchanging of players.

Modern Umpiring and the AFL

The game of Aussie rules contains many "grey areas" where application of the rules is subject to interpretation, making the job of field umpires extremely difficult. The instigation of new rules by the AFL in recent years, also contributes to the amount of work needed for umpires to maintain their skills and knowledge of the game. The umpires' director for the AFL is Jeff Gieschen, responsible for setting precedents for other affiliated leagues around the world.


AFL umpires have traditionally worn all-white uniforms, which has resulted in spectators widely using the phrase "white maggot" as a part of typical umpire abuse (e.g. "Open your eyes, you white maggot!"). [ [,23599,21638833-421,00.html Footy moots 'white maggot' ban] , Sunday Telegraph, 27 April 2007] In modern football (since about 2003), AFL umpires wear different coloured uniforms depending on which teams are playing, thereby avoiding potential clashes between similar jersey colours (referred to as "jumper clashes"). Despite this, the phrase "white maggot" is still used colloquially to both refer to and abuse AFL umpires. Occasionally, it is also jocularly modified to be "yellow maggot", "red maggot" or "green maggot", depending on the colour of the uniform that the umpire is wearing on that particular day.


ee also

* List of Australian rules football umpires
* List of Umpire Associations in Australia

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