By Nilss Lode
Australian Football in Germany often faces challenges as far as finding ideal playing venues in a central location as soccer is the dominant sport which requires significantly smaller playing areas. In the past, most games were played in open parks where locals, often taking their dog for a walk or going for a leisurely stroll, proceeded through the football field without noticing that an AFLG game was in process, which was an interesting situation for umpires. The times have changed now and 4 out of the 5 clubs in the AFLG this year have organized official sporting venues to host the games. The leading venue, in my opinion, is in Berlin which is located on the grounds outside the Olympic stadium. The stadium was renovated for the 2006 soccer world cup keeping the original structure, is a majestic monument as a backdrop to a game of Australian rules football. The playing surface is proper turf and large enough for a full size ground. I umpired at the venue in round one this year and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Umpiring in the German league can be demanding when new players to the code first start playing in the first division (AFLG Bundesliga) as the skill level and knowledge of the rules is significantly less than experienced payers . The AFLG addresses the issue of first game players by the annulment of a law breach once, for each law in the first game. The umpires also quickly explain what the law is and why it was violated. The ball is thrown up by the field umpire instead of a free kick.
AFL Europe with the help of Shane Hill have helped me to improve my confidence and consistency in decision making this year through monthly telephone conferences and the opportunity to ask questions about certain incidents which occur during games.
I have been assigned the inaugural role of umpire coordinator for the AFLG this year with the aim of improving the overall standard of umpiring in the AFLG via a development program. Key umpiring focus areas are communicated to all umpires in the AFLG before every round. The players are also informed of the focus areas before the game by the field umpires.
Individual development of the umpires is done when I travel to the clubs during the year and we umpire together on game day. This involves a lot of travel on the morning of the game as the clubs are based in Munich, Berlin. Hamburg, Köln and Stuttgart. The train ride from Munich to Berlin takes 6 and a half hours.
In order to improve the players knowledge of the rules, an umpiring colleague (Harit “Hazza” Khanna) and myself have prepared a footy quiz comprising of 25 multiple choice questions based on the laws of the game. The questions have been formulated to include basic general play questions for new players as well as more advanced (tricky) questions for senior experienced players. The questions were handed out to the Munich Kangarros players on Saturday and raised lots of discussion regarding the answers! Hazza and myself are currently marking the individual responses.
A prize will be given to the player with the highest score, as well as a random ballot from everyone that completed the quiz which was voluntary. The quiz will also be distributed to other clubs once the first trial with the Roos is completed. The players had a 4 hour limit to complete the quiz and should be aware that the umpires need to make these decisions in a split second!
I’m really looking forward to umpiring at the AFL Europe championships in London later this year.
#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam