From “doing a shoey” in front of the Australian Ambassador for Sweden to combining the tricky balance of umpiring and playing Australian Football, Paul Barron has been involved in the game for roughly 20 years.
Having started umpiring at the age of 14 in Sydney, before moving on to senior football as he went up the ranks, Paul gained a wealth of experience in the game, so when he moved to Malmo in Sweden in 2014, he had no hesitation in combining playing and umpiring to stay involved in Australian Football.
“I umpired for many years in Australia as I was never a very good player and the pocket money growing up was handy,” he said. Now he regularly umpires at major tournaments around Europe.
Paul’s umpiring experience includes two underage national championships in Australia, one held in Brisbane and the other in Melbourne. He has also umpired in Denmark, in his local league and at this years Euro Cup in Sweden as well as in the Champions League in Amsterdam.
At this year’s Euro Cup, Paul was awarded the Golden Whistle, given to the umpire of the tournament, and celebrated in true Australian fashion.
“I was accepting the trophy in front of the Australian Ambassador and local mayor when one of the Irish players came up to me with a beer and a football boot. Of course I couldn’t say no, so now I can tell everyone that I’ve done a shoey in front of the Australian Ambassador to Sweden,” he said.
Winning the Golden Whistle was also a bit of a special moment for Paul, as the tournament was in the country he is currently living in, and many of his teammates were present from Port Malmo.
“It was a nice moment. Living in Sweden I got a big cheer since a lot of my Malmo team mates were there playing for the Swedish national team,” he said.
For many umpires, their goal is to umpire the highest quality football possible, which tends to be the grand final in whichever league they are in. Paul achieved that goal last year in the Danish Australian Football League between the Copenhagen Giants and the Farum Cats.
Having said that, Paul has umpired plenty of football at a variety of levels, and his aim for umpiring in Europe at the moment is to do as many games as possible to help grow the sport.
“My goal is to umpire as many games as possible. I love the fact that Australian Football is played outside of Australia so by umpiring, I’m enabling people to play footy in Europe. And if I can teach some of the newer players the rules or give some advice to new umpires then even better,” he said.
Becoming an umpire is a daunting experience to some, but there are plenty of opportunities at local leagues and major tournaments throughout Europe where people can get involved and Paul says there are lots of those opportunities available for anyone who wants to give it a try. With people like Paul involved, those who are willing to give it a try will be in good hands as his experience in the game goes to show.
During his football career, Paul has been involved in plenty of games either as a player or umpire and will hopefully be involved in plenty more to come – and the “shoey” story will certainly be told for a while!