1974 Umpires’ Boycott – by Jim McSweeney

     A younger
Jim McSweeney

Here is an article by Society member, Jim McSweeney, a former umpire in the Sydney competition and later in Masters Rules.  He was an official with the St George Junior Association and also umpired in that competition.  The article provides details of a ‘boycott’, not a strike, by Sydney umpires in 1974.  This was a period when Sydney Newspapers frequently published articles of happenings in the code in the city (sadly no more), so we are able to bring you associated newspapers articles.

“I am sure that over the years’ clubs have expressed concern over certain umpires and expressed a wish that these umpires no be appointed to their matches. No doubt on some occasions these wishes may well have been granted.

However, in early July 1974, the fourth year of my Presidency, the Umpires Association was informed by the League that the Western Suburbs Club had informed them that they would not play if Umpire Earl Beeck was appointed to any of their matches. No reasons were given for this ultimatum.

This led to a very long and heavily debated Umpires’ Association meeting and brought back to me memories of the 1961 Strike. There were many actions proposed and debated. A large number were very determined to withdraw all umpiring services until this ultimatum was withdrawn.

After much debate and different proposals considered it was agreed that all clubs should not be penalised because of the action of one. It was then unanimously resolved that Association Members would not umpire any Western Suburbs matches whist this ultimatum was in place. This decision was passed to the League as soon as possible after the meeting.

Western Suburbs were due to play Southern Districts the following weekend at Rosedale Oval, Warwick Farm and no Association umpires were appointed. It was an interesting lead up, because a number of people associated with the home club were involved with junior football in the area. One of their first grade players also umpired local junior football. The Umpires’ executive were required to talk with these people and request that they support the Umpires in this matter. They all agreed to fall in line. The match went ahead with Bill Hart, the 48 year old League President, along with vice president Doug Bouch initially set down as umpires. (I’d love to see those two running around the paddock, Bill may have represented the state in 1948 and Doug Bouch won the Sanders Medal in 1959, but please … it can be, no it is, hard work out there in the centre and Doug was one who loved a drink on a hot day).   However the two with the whistles was later altered to Wests president and former VFA player, John Donovan and Southern Districts official, Arthur Clark taking on the officiating duties.

Following this, the ultimatum was withdrawn and everything went back to as normal as it can be in the Football world.”

Top of the table Western Suburbs had no trouble defeating ‘Districts in the game by over fourteen goals to continue their unbeaten run.

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