For Yann Cornaton, umpiring has given him the opportunity to travel all over Europe and watch the best teams battle it out from the best seat in the house.
Having been involved with AFL since 2010, Yann originally began as a player with the Strasbourg Kangaroos but decided to give umpiring a try during his third year in the game as there was a lack of officials in France.
With a desire to gain a deeper knowledge of the sport, he also enjoys being able to watch the game from right where the action is taking place. “Being so close to the game is a thrilling experience,” he said.
“Moreover, what I enjoy is contributing to the development of Australian football in my home country and at the European level,” Yann said.
Due to some health issues last year, Yann has had to give up playing the sport, but the chance to umpire allows him to stay involved in the game. As of this year, he is responsible for organising the umpiring department in the French League.
That is just one of the benefits of umpiring, according to Yann, as it gives an opportunity to those who may no longer be able to play a chance to still be involved in the game.
Yann encourages anyone who is thinking about getting involved with umpiring to give it a try.
“The umpiring team is always very welcoming towards anybody willing to join… When the game has ended, umpires and players are part of the same great family and that’s what makes it an awesome experience,” he said.
It also brings with it some unique stories, as Yann has encountered on numerous occasions.
“A friendly tournament had been organised in Strasbourg with the French, Swiss and Dutch national team. I was umpiring with Chris Goodman, an English umpire and a friend. When we arrived on the field there was a huge swarm of flying ants just above the ground, a big living black cloud, but we played anyway. It was funny to see the flying ants staying on the field and the players running through the swarm, ending up covered with ants at the end of every match,” Yann said.
During another game, again in Strasbourg, it started to snow. With a number of Australian’s playing, some of them were seeing snow for the first time so they stopped playing and started having a snowball fight in the middle of the game.
Umpiring has taken Yann all over France, wherever there is football being played, but on top of that, his experiences on the footy field have also taken place all over Europe.
So far in his career, he has umpired in Amsterdam twice for the Champions League as well as in Bordeaux and Cork for the Euro Cup.
This year, his goal is to take control of a full-sized Australian rules game. “I have so far only umpired the 9-a-side game, so I guess my next goal is experimenting with 18-aside”, he said.
Yann’s long term goals are to see what football is like around the world. “Maybe once I’ll be able to go outside of Europe to discover what footy looks like on other continents,” he said.
For now, though, he is focusing on his role in France and being involved with the European umpiring scene as there is a big year ahead which involves the Champions League in Amsterdam followed by the Euro Cup in Norrtälje, Sweden, and European Championships in London.