AFL Goldfields chief executive Rod Ward has defended claims of a possible conflict of interest following the appointment of Gary Learmonth as Ballarat Football Umpires Association operations manager and administration officer.
Learmonth, who will commence the new role on March 15, is also the senior coach of Central Highlands Football League club Gordon, whose matches are officiated by the BFUA.
There is some concerns in football circles about Learmonth holding both positions and how that could impact fixtures in 2016.
While the question comes as no surprise to Ward, he doesn’t believe there’s any problems.
“Obviously we are aware there may have been some sensitivity about him being appointed to that role while being coach of Gordon,” Ward told The Courier.
“First and foremost, what we didn’t think was fair at all would be to ask him to stand down as coach of Gordon. That would be unfair to Gary at this late stage leading into the season and certainly be unfair to Gordon - losing your coach on the death knock of the season - so that wasn’t considered.”
Ward said like his predecessor Liam Brady, Learmonth would not be involved in selecting umpires for weekend matches.
“The one thing that needs to be very clear is that role has no input or no say into the umpire appointments, so Gary won’t have any say over which umpires are appointed to Gordon Football Club games. Just like Liam had no role in appointments,” he said.
Ward said Learmonth would be required to remove himself from any issues that arose relating to umpires and the Eagles.
Learmonth was confirmed as the replacement to former Gordon coach Corey Grills in October last year.
He takes over an Eagles side that is looking to better its 2015 grand final defeat at the hands of Springbank.
The 41-year-old has an extensive background in football on and off the field, which has included a stint as senior coach of Darley.
During his playing days, Learmonth was a supplementary list footballer with Collingwood and Carlton during the 1990s and had a decorated career in community football, including a stint in the Ovens and Murray league where he was part of the side that won several VCFL division one championships.
Gordon will take on Melton Centrals in a practice match at home on Saturday as it continues preparations for round one on April 9.
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