on air now

AFL umpires ‘pencil pushing dweebs’ who earn better money off the field


The AFL is the richest sport in Australia. By far.

The average salary for a listed player is roughly $352,000 a year, and at least nine players earned over a cool $1 million last season.

It’s TV rights deal is the richest, average crowd attendances are the highest, and the footy clubs boast the most paid up members.

Yet despite such lavish riches, no AFL umpire is a full time employee with the league.

They’re all part of the gig economy.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has thrown his support behind calls for the AFL to employ full time umpires which he says is necessary to adjudicate “the most complex game in the world.”

Clarko isn’t the only AFL heavyweight calling for change. 2007 Brownlow Medalist Jimmy Bartel says he’d like to see a cohort of full-time umpires but that there’s opposition to the idea from a surprising group.

“I like the idea of a crew or a team staying together for 12 weeks, they can build that rapport,” Bartel explains on Breakfast with Mark Levy and Mark ‘Piggy’ Riddell.

“But when you hear people from the AFL and even a number of umpires who don’t want it, you’ve got to go with the way they feel,

“A lot of these guys are pencil pushing dweebs who earn a lot of money so becoming a full time umpire is actually a massive step back,

“We’ve got lawyers and barristers who are umpires, they’re making a good living, and the don’t want it, so it’s pretty hard to push it on them.

Click PLAY to hear Jimmy Bartel’s take:

‘Lethal’ Leigh Matthews, one of the greatest players to ever lace up a boot, wonders whether the cost of employing a stable of full time umpires would provide an improved return on investment.

“If an umpire not working another job and becoming a full time umpire means we could improve the umpiring efficiency by 10%, you’d probably say it’s worthwhile,” Matthews tells David Morrow and Julian King.

“How much money are we talking about though to do that? You’d have to be paying them $250,000 a year I would’ve thought,

“You’d lose a lot of your umpires who would say ‘no, I’m not going to cease my career to become a full time umpire,

“If you think the umpiring would be better with full time umpires, then I think the answer would be go for it, even if it cost you an extra couple of million dollars, but I think a lot of the umpiring people think you wouldn’t actually get better officiating.

Click PLAY to hear Lethal’s take: