Sport Hockey Sledge city: the things said to hockey umpires
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Sledge city: the things said to hockey umpires

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Hi, my name’s Tim and I’m an umpire abuser.

Hi, Tim.

Ok, stop judging me. We’ve all done it. In the heat of the moment, a decision goes against you and it’s natural to react. It’s almost instinct. I know, I know. That doesn’t make it right.

Umpire Aleisha Neumann calls the shots. Photo: JR Neumann
Umpire Aleisha Neumann calls the shots. Photo: JR Neumann

Umpires are a cornerstone of our game, without them there’d be chaos.

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I should clarify, I have never physically abused an umpire and the level of my verbal outbursts is, at worst, confined to an embarrassingly high-pitched: “What for!”

I have a friend who yells at umpires when we are spectating. He isn’t abusive. He isn’t offensive. He just yells things like: “Good officiating!” and “You’re doing a wonderful job!”

I’m still not sure what he is trying to achieve but it’s better than dishing out abuse, right?

Umpires must have the toughest gig in sport. Every mistake is magnified and often results in a barrage of abuse most people wouldn’t contemplate dishing out beyond the sporting arena.

But in this day and age, with all the education programs out there, you’d think the situation must be getting better? Or at the very least, not getting worse.

Evidence from Australian umpires would suggest that’s not the case.

Victorian Premier League umpire Keeley O’Reilly gave a disturbing insight into the ludicrous level of abuse directed towards umpires.

“Last year, I had a player make a ‘gun’ symbol at me after a decision I made,” O’Reilly told The New Daily.

“In that same game I also had a manager come up to me after the game and interrupt a conversation to tell me how terrible I was. I am a senior umpire in the sport, but that happens to umpires from all grades and experience.

“Others probably stop umpiring after an incident like that.”

And O’Reilly is not alone. Here are the thoughts of some other officials:

• “Unfortunately there are still too many incidents that occur where umpires are exposed to severe verbal and in some cases physical abuse,” Phil Dubbin, Australian Masters umpire.

• “I think it is getting worse. Players and parents see how umpires are treated and are making decisions not to ‘volunteer’ to umpire,” Sonya Fisher, Division 1 umpire, Brisbane.

• “Players and coaches, and spectators for that matter, seem to think it’s their given right to hurl insults and abuse at umpires,” Bernadette Pangrazio, Australian Hockey League umpire.

• “I believe that player attitudes are getting worse towards the umpires, and some coaches, even elite coaches, are teaching players some ways to break the rules,” Ross Swadling, Hunter Coast Premier League umpire, New South Wales

Philip Dubbin controls proceedings. Photo: Julie Elder
Phil Dubbin controls proceedings. Photo: Julie Elder

Sporting bodies have implemented codes of conduct to combat the problem and the general consensus among the population is that abusing umpires is bad. But it still doesn’t stop it happening every single weekend.

Here’s eight sledges people actually said to hockey umpires:

1.F**k, this isn’t women’s hockey.
“Umpiring a men’s match, a ball whizzed past a defender’s head. I blew a dangerous ball, to which the attacker remarked: ‘F**k, this isn’t women’s hockey’. He received a yellow card. In the same game I was condemned for not allowing the defence to ‘get back in time’ after an attacker took a self-play. I reminded him I was not at fault for his lack of fitness or agility,” – Anonymous, Division 1 Brisbane umpire

2. Shes definitely got green eyes.
“At half-time, one male player came up really close, studied my face, turned, ran away and yelled: ‘She’s definitely got green eyes’. (The opposition team had green uniforms). My eyes are blue. I’m not quick on the retorts…” – Ann Lennie, Victorian League 1 and 2 umpire.

3. “You’re not in the colonies now.”
“Said at the 2014 Master’s World Cup in Holland while I was umpiring England v Germany gold medal match – because they knew I was an Australian umpire. My response was: ‘It wouldn’t matter, the rules are the same!’” – Sonya Fisher, Division 1 umpire, Brisbane.

4. “Hey mate, if you want you can borrow my seeing eye dog.”
“From a supporter standing on the fence line with his pet dog after I didn’t give his son’s team a penalty corner,” – Phil Dubbin, Australian Masters umpire.

5. “You’re not even good at umpiring.”
“The most ridiculous sledge I have ever got about my umpiring ability was actually during a game I was playing. This girl just turned around and said: ‘well… you’re not even any good at umpiring’. It was completely out of the blue, and a little out of context,” – Keeley O’Reilly, Victorian Premier League Umpire.

6. “What game are you watching?”
“‘What game are you watching?’ and ‘What for?’ are definitely the most common,” – Aleisha Neumann, Toowoomba umpire.

7. “Are you serious?”
“My standard response to ‘Are you serious?’ is; ‘Yes, I am actually’,” – Bernadette Pangrazio, AHL umpire.

8. Thanks for trying.
– Ross Swadling, Hunter Coast Premier League, New South Wales.

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