– Hard Times For Umpires

Leo Harry, NSW AFL
Life Member and
Vice President

Umpires and umpiring in Sydney have had their share of strife from being assaulted to going on strike.

The umpires’ Association was formed in *1920 [1] mostly through the efforts of long time umpire and league advocate, Leo Errington Harry, better known as Leo Harry.  He was secretary and treasurer of the Association for 10 years and team manager of numerous state teams.  He was rewarded with life membership of the league in 1940.  The umpiring regime owes him a lot.

In July 1924 Tom Chinnick accompanied a Victorian schoolboys team to Sydney where they competed in a national carnival.  Chinnick was an umpire in a Melbourne suburban league and later the Mornington Peninsular Football Association.  While in Sydney, he agreed to a offer by the league to officiate in a major club game provided “the umpire listed for the match suffered no pecuniary loss.”

The Umpires’ Association met the night before games resulting in an umpires walkout if Chinnick officiated in the match.

This strained relations between the league an umpires’  association and Chinnick withdrew his “proffered” assistance and the weekend matches proceeded without further incident. [2]

Only a few months later Alec Mutch, a VFL umpire officiated in a finals match in Sydney.  This caused so much consternation in the umpiring ranks that they tendered their resignation as a body.  Mutch’s services had been secured through the VFL permit and umpire committee, “to help the local league in an emergency which had arisen.”

It was reported that “he gave the best exhibition of refereeing seen in an Australian Rules club game in Sydney.”  [3] And yet the umpires all resigned in the following manner as directed to the League Secretary: [4]

“Dear Sir,
I beg to notify you that all umpires connected with this association, including field, boundary, and goal, tender their resignation as umpires to your league from Friday, September 12, 1924.

(Signed) L. E. Harry. Secretary.”

Mutch stayed in Sydney and umpired the grand final the following week, performing splendidly. [5]

The next season the umpires must have swallowed their pride because everything went along quite smoothly until 1933.

This was the year of the National Carnival played at the SCG and in the week preceding the preliminary final the umpires went out for high fees.  They demanded fees be increased from 66 and in some cases 100%. [6]  This was during the big depression and times were hard. The league ignored their demands and the majority of umpires continued to offer themselves for the last two weeks of the season.

The Association disbanded and it was then resolved that the league employ umpires on an individual basis. [7]

This action however caused the disbandment of the umpires’ association and it wasn’t until September 1935 that a successful move was made to reform the organisation.

A further episode on umpiring in Sydney to come

*An Umpires’ Association in Sydney was formed in 1911 but did not appear to last more than two season.

[1] Referee Newspaper 5 May 1920, p.11
[2] Sydney Sportsman 15 July 1924, p.7
[3] The Sun 16 September 1924, p.5
[4] Labor Daily 13 September 1924, p.3
[5] Referee Newspaper 21 September 1924 p.10
[6] Sydney Morning Herald 5 September 1935 p.16
[7] Sydney Morning Herald 26 September 1933 p.16

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