THE role umpires play in football - and there can't be a game without them - will be recognised across the region this weekend with the annual Umpire Awareness Round.
The round aims to raise awareness for the need to create a more positive match-day environment for umpires, particularly at grassroots level where there are constant issues with recruitment and retention.
"It's my view that at local level, the match-day environment is improving with a healthy level of respect and closer working relationships between coaches, players, umpires and officials," Bendigo Umpires Association chairman John Norton said on Friday.
"Unfortunately, this is not the case at all senior and junior clubs, and the key reason why many umpires drop out is because of the poor match-day environment and negative behavior towards them."
Latest statistics show 19,000 umpire appointments are required weekly across Australia during a season, but there are only about 11,000 accredited umpires.
"Umpires get involved because they love football, just like the players, coaches and fans and we need to make the match-day environment inclusive and respectful so that umpires can continue to enjoy it and retention rates improve," Norton said.
As part of Umpire Appreciation Round, the Bendigo Football-Netball League has published an umpires photo on the cover of this weekend's Record.
"First and foremost, this round is about showing our appreciation to the umpiring community and improving their experience," Norton said.
"There's a lot of ways this can be done through on-field acknowledgements, shouting your local umpire a drink after the match or just not shouting abuse.
"As umpires, we train and prepare ourselves just as the players do. It takes a tremendous amount of commitment and dedication to become an umpire, so we want our umpires to know we respect the work they do."