WIMMERA and Horsham District football leagues are concerned about umpire safety as they prepare to start their respective finals campaigns.
Wimmera league chief commissioner Greg Schultz and district league chairman Graeme King met during the week to discuss umpiring in both leagues.
Mr Schultz said umpiring swaps between Wimmera Football Umpires Association and Wimmera Football League Umpires Group had been successful on both sides, but a rise in abuse from crowds was concerning.
“In the past few weeks there has been a rise in incidents of umpire abuse from spectators – not only to the central umpires but to our junior green shirt umpires,” he said.
“The feedback we’re getting is that our junior umpires are feeling intimidated.
“We have a hard time recruiting umpires as it is, so we want to ask people to refrain from abusive language – especially towards our younger umpires.”
Mr Schultz said the consumption of alcohol was a likely factor in the abuse spike.
He said it was a good time for clubs to be reminded of the requirements of their liquour licenses and to stop serving alcohol to people who were intoxicated.
The Wimmera league has proposed a trial system requiring team runners to escort umpires off the ground at quarter breaks in each game.
Mr Schultz said home teams were supposed to have a representative appointed to escort the umpires off the ground, but few teams had one.
Umpires are already escorted off the ground in almost all district league matches.
During the finals, commissioners from the respective leagues will accompany the umpires from the ground.
Mr Schultz said talks between he and Mr King had been positive despite the disappointing nature of recent umpire abuse.
“It’s good to have the two leagues talking to each other and working together,” he said.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re not working against each other and we’re working for the future of football in the region.”