Theory to practice - Umpire abuse: does it really matter?

AFL umpire in action
Author:  Associate Professor Peter Reaburn
Issue: Volume 8 Number 1

Purpose of the study

Twenty-two umpires of professional and semi-professional AFL were interviewed to determine what they think of abusive behaviour and what they find to be rewarding about umpiring.

Results of the study

This study of high level AFL umpires showed that they routinely and mentally reframe abuse, considering it to be a normal part of their role. Abuse was not seen by these umpires to turn them off the game, and there was no evidence that it contributes to attrition. The umpires enjoyed the social world they share with other umpires and identified social interactions with other umpires as a key reason for continuing to umpire.

So what?

This study highlights that high level umpires appear to see abuse as ‘part of the game’ and ‘comes with the territory’. As a practicing netball coach, I wonder whether club-level umpires see it the same way! The study also highlights the important role that socialising plays in umpiring in helping them reframe abuse and in maintaining their commitment. The results also suggest that the social rewards of umpiring should be stressed in umpire recruitment, and that the social world of umpiring should be incorporated into umpire training and retention.


Kellett, P, Shilbury, D 2007, ‘Umpire participation: is abuse really the issue?’ Sport Management Review,  10(3), p. 209–29.

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