There are two things that really irk me about the AFL in recent years, one is that they left Channel Seven (thankfully they are going back), and secondly, and probably more importantly, they have been abandoning some of their common-sense traditions, such as having umpires in noticeable white uniforms.
When the umpires were in white, they were noticeable and they looked professional, no team is dressed fully (or even mostly) in white, and there is no logical reason for changing the colour of umpires uniforms. I really hate seeing them in a different colour every single match, they just don’t stand out. Sure, they aren’t the same colour as any of the competing teams, but they just look like players anyway. The white uniform was obvious, noticeable and made sense…the AFL was stupid to remove it, and I hope they change their mind soon.
I was prompted to write this article after reading a similar opinion in yesterday’s Crikey newsletter.
27. AFL Heritage Round does more than remember the good old days
Nick Place at the Crikey sports desk writes:
Brave or stupid? So often it’s a fine line, and that’s how it was for the AFL with the 80s-themed Heritage round. Why? Because by showcasing some of the old fashions and how footy was played not so many years ago, the League accidentally turned the spotlight on some of the worst of the changes to the “modern game”.
I’m talking about the cosmetic but significant changes that have all helped to bland out the AFL. Like putting goal umpires in smart coloured polo shirts and baseball caps, instead of the traditional white painter’s coats and broad-brimmed lawn bowler hats. They were back on the weekend, and looked sensational.
Or like having umpires wearing white, as they did for 100 years, before some genius at head office decided that their uniform clashed with team guernseys also featuring white. Somehow Collingwood, Geelong and the Kangaroos all took the field on the weekend, along with an umpire in traditional white, and nobody died.
My question is this: if the AFL felt so moved to make the “Men in White” the “Men in Multi-Coloured Hues” as some kind of workplace safety measure, why can they carelessly ditch that concern for an entire round for marketing reasons?
I know this is all low-level stuff, but it matters. You want to hark back to the 80s? I interviewed some Americans at a VFL game back then who had only come to that game to stand behind the goals and marvel at the goal umpire in the white long coat and big hat. They actually had fan clubs devoted to these idiosyncratic officials on the college circuit back in the USA. I’ll bet nobody has a Goal Umpire Fan Club these days, now they’re dressed like every other ho-hum official.
Is the AFL gutsy enough to admit a mistake? Put the umpires and goal umpires back in the clothes they belong in, and only bring back the coloured shirts and baseball caps as a chuckle in a future Noughties Heritage Round? Let personalities like Akermanis have their head, instead of slapping them down for breaking team ranks?
Not likely. Which is a shame.
From memory the umpire colour change only occurred after Seven lost the rights to the AFL…I hope Seven put pressure on the AFL to revert back to white.