Probably a little known fact in Sydney football was the folding of the NSW Australian National Football Umpires’ Association.
The Association was formed in 1911 but appeared not to continue as a combined group. They were reformed in 1920 under the guidance of Leo Harry, a former umpire in a minor Melbourne League who went on to be the Associations secretary for nine years. However the association was refused representation at league league level while umpires themselves were refused a seasons ticket for entry to games and boundary umpires were not allowed to report players unless they were officially appointed by the league.
In that year Field Umpires were paid seven and six pence (75c) per club match and twenty five shillings ($2.50) for interstate games with the boundaries umpires receiving five shillings or 50c a match.
In the same year in an ambitious move, the NSW Football League resolved to provide umpires for the South West Football Association (Riverina) providing that they pay the umpires’ fees of £2 ($4) per game and travel expenses. Following an inquiry from the Culcairn Assn in July, as to the cost of obtaining umpires it was resolved that the fee would be three guineas ($6.60) with return rail fare and 6/- (60c) living expenses.
Towards the end of 1933, during the deep world wide depression, umpires refused to officiate during the finals unless they received a pay increase. The league utilised other competent personnel to officiate and “the competition was brought to a successful conclusion.” The umpires were further refused a pay rise at the commencement of the 1934 season with a result that the Umpires’ Association folded. 1
Umpires went without an association until the end of 1935 when a visit to the northern States by Bill Blackburn, a leading Victorian Football League umpire who officiated at the St George v North Shore match in early August following his exhibition in the Collingwood South Melbourne fixture at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the previous Saturday. L.C. Keating from the Victorian Amateur Football Association also came to Sydney in an effort to help. He officiated in the 1935 Sydney grand final. 2
Since that demise of the association a lack of uniformity on the part of field umpires in interpreting rules particularly in relation to the then recent amendments had become apparent and members of the league’s executive committee were favourably disposed towards the proposal to reform the association so that umpires coaching classes can be commenced early in 1936.
With this end in view the members of the umpires appointment board attended one of the weekly referees coaching classes of the New South Wales Rugby League where the methods adopted by that body were closely studied.
Tom King one of the leading Australian Rules umpires at the time called a meeting of umpires at the Sydney Sports Club in Hunter Street in an effort to resuscitate the association.
The result of this meeting is unknown but in all probably it resumed its activities but still unrepresented on the League.SMH – 5 September 1935 p.161. NSWANFL Annual Report
- 1935 NSWANFL Annual Report
2. SMH 5 September 1935 p.13