BALLARAT parents are leading the way when it comes to stamping out abuse of umpires at junior sporting games.
Throwing objects at umpires, imploring children to hit or trip opponents and publicly abusing coaches and club officials is the way of the past, according to Ballarat Umpires Association senior umpire Robert Simmonds.
The abuse of umpires and officials in junior sport came to attention this week after Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson swore at a 19-year-old umpiring coach during his son’s under-9 match on Sunday.
However, Ballarat sporting identities say this is a rare incident in modern-day sport.
“It does still happen from time to time but it is becoming more and more rare that the umpires are approached and abused like that. Most clubs have a zero-tolerance policy for umpire abuse,” Mr Simmonds said.
Ballarat crowds aren’t always perfect, and the 350-game umpire has had his share of abuse over his 13 years on the field.
“I have copped verbal abuse and I believe it was and is worse in junior football as parents are quite one-eyed when they see their son or daughter out on the field. If a call goes against them they tend to look for someone to blame,” he said.
“I think they see it as a personal attack on their child rather than just a free kick.
“However, I have seen a huge reduction in umpire abuse over the years and the respect from the leagues and clubs in the past year or two has been great.”
BFL chief executive officer Rod Ward said there had been no formal reports of spectator abuse in the BFL this year.
“I’m not saying our crowds are perfect but we have worked very hard over the last 10 years to stamp our bad behaviour from spectators,” he said.
Anne McCartin, a mother of four and the Ballarat Netball Association coaching co-ordinator, said Clarkson set a terrible example for juniors involved in sport.
“What amazes me about the Alastair Clarkson incident is that he holds a position as Hawthorn coach in the public eye every day, but what makes it more disappointing is that he is a parent.”
A mum on the sideline of football and netball for many years, Ms McCartin knows the pressure and frustration parents can feel watching a child playing sport, but she said, “I think you are more accountable because it affects the people that you have tried to steer and encourage along their way to adulthood – your own children”.
As for the umpires, Mr Simmonds is passionate to continue recruiting young people to become umpires.
“At the end of the day we should all remember that we all make mistakes, we’re all human and we’re are all here for the same reason and that is we love the game.”