An umpire in Tasmania was manhandled by a 15-year-old player during a Southern Tasmanian Junior Football League under-16A match a fortnight ago, before also being abused by a parent after the game at Kermandie.

This is one of a series of incidents that has been reported in recent times, and Tasmania’s umpires are sick of copping abuse by angry players and parents. Tasmanian Football Umpires Association executive member Jason Williams said the level of abuse from junior to senior level was rising and this season had not started well.

The 16-year-old umpire in question was manhandled by a Lauderdale player, who has since been handed a 12-week penalty after pleading guilty to making contact with an umpire.

The suspension was handed down by an independent tribunal, and with the season consisting of 15 matches, the teenager will be available only for the final two games of the year.

However the TFUA may appeal, as they are not very happy with the decision that was handed down. Even though the player had admitted his guilt to the tribunal, STJFL executive officer Tony Gibson told The Mercury there was conflicting evidence.

Gibson said it was a delicate position and the league was still investigating. The Lauderdale Football Club has apologised to the umpire manhandled by one of its junior players, and new AFL umpiring boss Wayne Campbell is on his way to Tasmania to meet with the official involved.

Accompanying Campbell is Tasmanian AFL umpire Nick Foot, who will also meet with the player and a representative of the Lauderdale Football Club. This incident follows recent bad behaviour which has seen a 13-year-old boy banned from his club because of the actions of his parent.

Last season a parent was prohibited from attending STJFL games, and there are on average five serious incidents involving parents at football games each year.

TFUA president Kevin Foot revealed the organisation is losing an average of 50 umpires a season, with player and parent abuse a main cause. Umpire numbers in Tasmania are close to crisis point as it is, and the TFUA has been actively trying hard to bring in new umpires over the off season.

In the past, the Southern Football League had come close to cancelling its reserves games because of the umpire shortage. In some Premier League games in years gone by, umpires were forced to officiate two games back to back.

The matter is simple: without the umpires, we have no game. Players and parents alike need to start to learn to respect the umpires and act appropriately or they need to be given harsh penalties. Frustration is normal when a decision goes against someone, but both parent and player needs to work on how they vent their frustrations.

Tasmanian football cannot afford to keep losing umpires at such an alarming rate, and exposing parents and players to the world of an umpire may help the understanding between them.