AFTER the Western Border Football League postponed its season until May 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not just the players who were affected.
The Limestone Coast umpiring fraternity has also been left in the cold by the lack of on-field action.
Many umpires had been training during the pre-season in readiness to officiate the upcoming season, but without any games for the foreseeable future, those plans have been changed.
South East Football Umpires League president Brad Holdman said his colleagues have been forced to stop all contact within the group.
“Like all of the football clubs, the SANFL’s direction is that we do not train, so we have abandoned all interaction with each other,” he said.
Many use umpiring as a fun way to earn money, keep fit and stay involved with the game.
The former has been a major incentive to draw youngsters to wear the green shirt.
For many teenagers who officiate on the boundary or goal line, umpiring is often their main source of income.
But with no games to umpire, their weekly payday is now non-existent and Holdman is worried about many of the juniors.
“The money side will probably affect the juniors more than the senior umpires because it is their only source of income,” he said.
“They get a little bit of pocket money each week and it pays for phone credit or games or whatever they spend their money on.
“It is going to be a blow for them.”
Young boundary umpire Vaughan Stratford said he was disappointed he can not umpire.
“Umpiring was very enjoyable, with the atmosphere around you and learning the rules of football,” he said.
“There is now nothing else out there for me to do and I cannot earn any pocket money.
“It will be a long time without football.”
Holdman is also concerned for his senior umpires if the 2020 season does not go ahead.
He said there is a potential some members could depart the SEFUL after an extended break.
“A lot of our umpires are getting older and after a year out of the game, your mind could start to move on to different activities or your body slows down and you are not as inclined to turn up on a Saturday,” Holdman said.
“That will affect the numbers of our seniors and could be a distraction for our juniors as well, so we could possibly lose a few of those.”
However, the current situation could be a blessing in disguise for the umpiring community.
As previously reported in The Border Watch, the SEFUL was concerned it did not have enough numbers for the upcoming season.
The suspension period could provide an unexpected opportunity to find recruits.
Holdman said he has slowed the search for new faces, but hopes some will arrive when football does return.
“We have sort of gone quiet on that, but down the track we will certainly be looking for umpires again,” he said.
“In the future we will be as keen as we have ever been and hopefully we can gather the numbers that we have had in the past to provide the same sort of service for the WBFL.”
On reflection, Holdman said it was an easy call to suspend all umpiring activities and he is more concerned about the bigger picture.
“There was no decision at all – we just followed the SANFL’s direction,” he said.
“We think it is really important to protect all members of society.
“It is not about whether I am going to get through or not, it is about those more vulnerable.”