FOOTBALL and netball clubs in the Heathcote Disctrict league are on notice that poor behaviour will not be tolerated, and it's not before time.
The HDFNL has issued a 'first and final' warning that any abusive behaviour directed at umpires will not be tolerated - on, or off the field.
The warning comes after the Bendigo Umpires Association reported to the league that player behaviour, and that of some coaches, officials and supporters, is the 'worst they have seen or heard'.
One example of this was last weekend, when the reserves match between North Bendigo and Lockington-Bamawm United was called off early by a young umpire because poor behaviour was escalating.
In a letter to all clubs this week, the message from the HDFNL was clear - this is not good enough, and such behaviour will not be tolerated.
And to enforce this, the league has instructed umpires to pay free kicks or award 50 metre penalties against those who behave badly towards umpires, whether or not the abuse comes from players, or those off the field.
As HDFNL chairman Peter Cole says, 'barrack all you like, but don't get personal with the umpires or players'.
We applaud the league for calling out this behaviour - and in no way suggest this issue is unique to clubs in the HDFNL.
The umpires association says it's widespread across all central Victorian competitions, and "the worst that it has been for a while".
It's not good enough.
No one can participate without umpires - and the abuse hurled towards them for many years, has to end.
We do not allow, accept or condone that behaviour away from a sporting environment - so nor should we do so because that's what we've always done, in the spirit of getting behind our favourite teams.
It's time for umpires to be supported to call it out - and better still, call it out yourself when you hear your mates doing it.
If a 15-year-old umpire can say enough is enough, everyone should.
- Nicole Ferrie, editor
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