Beechworth umpire suspended by TDFL tribunal until end of 2018 for making contact with a player

AN umpire officiating a Tallangatta and District Football League under-14 match has been suspended until the end of the 2018 season for making contact with a player.

The Beechworth club umpire, whose identity cannot be confirmed, appeared before the TDFL independent tribunal on Tuesday night following an investigation into incidents arising from a match between the Bushrangers and Wodonga Saints last month.

The umpire, who had a son playing in the match, pleaded not guilty to a charge of unbecoming conduct towards a Saints’ player to the three-member tribunal panel chaired by Ron Montgomery.

He said the club umpire had the right to appeal the suspension.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind in the North-East region.

Wodonga Saints asked for the incident to be investigated.

A Saints player was handed a five-match ban (two games suspended) by the TDFL tribunal for an incident in the same game played at Martin Park.

Volunteer club umpires are used to cover the shortage of official umpires to take charge of minor grade matches in all district leagues and under-age competitions including the TDFL, Hume, Ovens and King, Upper Murray and Albury-Wodonga juniors.

AFL North-East Border general manager John O’Donohue said matches simply wouldn't go ahead if volunteers didn’t perform the role.

“It is a pretty rare incident,” he said.

Mr O’Donohue added a club umpire training program was put in place this season, but the sessions held in Wangaratta and Albury were poorly attended.

“It wasn’t compulsory,” he said.

“But there has been talk at AFL level about moving umpire accreditation to a compulsory status.

“Our obligation is to ensure they are as equipped as they can be to do the role in our game.”

Beechworh Bushrangers couldn’t be contacted for comment.