THE Ballarat Football Umpires Association says it is being forced to rely on club volunteers to goal umpire at least one senior Central Highlands Football League match every week as a churn in umpire numbers bites.
The BFUA has seen its goal umpire ranks shrink from 40 to 34 this year, meaning at least one CHFL senior football match misses out on having goal umpires every week.
The association covers the Ballarat Football Netball League seniors, reserves and under 19s and also hopes each week to cover the CHFL seniors. CHFL reserves are covered by club volunteers.
Goal umpires coach Brodie Bennett said the shortage had meant that each week at least one game relied on club volunteers to go ahead.
"So far every week this season, we've had at least one game where we've had to ask clubs to provide the goal umpires," he said.
"There was one week where we were forced to do it at two games and this week is another where we will be forced to ask clubs at two matches to provide volunteers."
Bennett said the BFUA could not provide umpires at all for the Maryborough and Castlemaine league as it has in the past to assist when necessary, while many current umpires were being forced to officiate four or five games a weekend.
He said the issues had been exacerbated by COVID in the past two years as well as a series of retirements.
He said a group of teenagers, some aged as low as 13, were now being called upon to officiate senior football matches.
"We believe there may be many people within our community who are willing and available to assist - spectators, ex-players, club volunteers who are seeking to stay involved," he said.
"Full training and support is provided, including on-the-job training. All umpires are paid per game and we will endeavour to accommodate requests for locations and times."
Umpires generally earn $60 a game to officiate senior CHFL matches with BFNL seniors earning slightly more and reserves and under 19s earning slightly less.
"We're just trying to get the attention of people who may not have thought about it," Bennett said. "If you're involved in a football club, you can also be involved in the umpiring, get trained up to do be part of a professional club.
"We're all a family, I started when I was 15 and I'm 30 now and have been involved all the way through, it's a great group of people.
"We've got a diverse group of umpires, a couple of 13-year-olds are doing senior football at the moment and we've got some closer to 70, but as you can imagine those get tougher to retain each year."
He said the winter months ahead would mean numbers would be at desperate levels, but the plan is that finals will be completely covered.
"We're not even up to the coldest part of the year as yet, so we anticipate it will be harder going ahead," he said.
The umpires train each Monday and Wednesday night at City Oval. Anyone interested in assisting is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org
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