Andrew Scotford, Cricket

Andrew Scotford signalling out at the cricket stumps
Author:  Mike Coward, first published in The Australian newspaper 1 March 2008
Issue: Volume 7 Number 1

The unfamiliar official out to familiarise the face of umpiring

It is not only in Canberra where, for the moment, unfamiliar names are attached to unfamiliar faces in unfamiliar places yet demanding considerable attention.

That he has lost neither faith nor focus during this tumultuous international cricket season tells us a good deal about the steely resolve of Andrew Scotford, the latest addition to Cricket Australia's front bench.

Appointed nine months ago to the new portfolio of umpire manager, Scotford, 36, has worked earnestly to ensure the fall-out from a succession of umpiring crises at the elite level has not affected the mood and morale of his charges across the country.

A former chief executive officer of Volleyball Australia, it is his extensive experience as an officiating officer that enabled him to provide a cool head and a steady hand as those around him as Jolimont dealt with controversies enveloping International Cricket Council elite umpires Steve Bucknor and Rudi Koertzen.

And to add to his woes the game's foremost and most decorated umpire, Australian Simon Taufel, made public his dissatisfaction with a system that has drained him of energy and ambition and put in doubt his future in the game.

A lover of cricket and its conventions and virtues from boyhood, Scotford discovered early in his sporting life that his true calling was to officiate. That he had umpired at senior level in a range of sports was a striking recommendation when CA acted on the findings of a comprehensive review undertaken 18 months ago and created the position.

Scotford is a renowned volleyball official who served at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, has umpired Australian football at reserves level and stood in domestic limited-over cricket matches when the Canberra Comets were in competition.
He also stood in matches involving visiting international teams and the Prime Minister's XI and in an occasional non-first-class fixture of four-day duration.

"My whole philosophy is about the need to humanise the face of umpiring," Scotford said.

There are many facets to his portfolio and along with former Test umpires Tony Crafter, 67, and Dick French, 69, he has chosen the first-class officials who have served throughout the season. Above all, however, it is his responsibility to oversee the development, training and education of umpires at all levels and invest in the tools and resources to service the game at the grass roots.

"We've got to use all the apparatus available to make sure the umpires are the most professional they can be because they must deliver on such a huge stage," Scotford said.

While he is a traditionalist with a deep affection for the excitement and theatre of Test cricket, Scotford believes the Twenty20 phenomenon that has gripped the cricket community provides an exciting opportunity to lure younger people to umpiring.

Scotford himself first stood in a match of consequence at the age of 20 and believes with appropriate training young men will be challenged by officiating in the accelerated form of the game. While it is improbable they would gravitate to the first-class arena, their involvement would be invaluable to the image and branding of the game.

"We need to do everything we can to improve the brand of the game and a part of that is building a relationship of trust and respect with the players," Scotford said.

"And this is not to be demanded but earned - earned by us because we are honest and have integrity and we can look people in the eye every day we make our decisions. It doesn't mean we think we are faultless.

"It means that if we build a relationship the players know the decisions we make are made honestly by the person actually making them and there are no influences. If an error is made there is no malice in it, no cheating and no bias.

"The sole drive for perfect decision doesn't happen at any other level and doesn't happen at any other sport and not in any other component of the game.

"There's not such intense scrutiny of players. This is not a defensive mechanism but it is unusual that you have to have a perfect decision from the umpire but the rest of the game can accommodate imperfections."

Scotford is proud of the relationship which exists between umpires and players at domestic first-class, limited-over and, indeed, district cum grade cricket throughout the country.

Indeed, it has become common practice for players, umpires and coaches to sit together at the end of a game and review proceedings, developing a greater awareness and regard for each other's roles and responsibilities.

And Scotford, like so many within the umpiring fraternity, is a keen advocate of involving former first-class players as umpires and points to the progress made by Paul Reiffel, Rod Tucker and Bruce Oxenford.

"Involving former players is a positive and a help to debunk the many myths of umpiring," he said.

"When players see their peers involved a greater understanding comes. And it also helps those who didn't come through that playing pathway to understand the demands of the games and demands made of the players.

"Players don't see that umpires make the same level of commitment - especially pre-season. The parties can learn from each other."

Scotford, who played some sub-district cricket in Canberra while studying law and economics, is the new face of cricket umpiring in Australia. He cares deeply about the spirit of the game and with his energy, vision and familiarity with the technology tools of the day can bridge the generation and communication gap and so raise the profile of umpiring throughout the country.

First published in The Australian newspaper 1 March 2008. Reproduction with permission.

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