Umpires in peace deal

THE prospect of Border umpires preparing for football matches in sub-standard conditions has been averted with a truce called in a long-running simmering dispute between the Albury Umpires League and the AFL North-East Commission.

The battle for control of umpiring’s spiritual home, Noreuil Park, has been bubbling away all summer.

Umpires will return to Noreuil Park next Tuesday after training at Wodonga Secondary College since they started their pre-season training in February.

But the end to daylight savings this weekend, the lack of suitable lighting at the Wodonga venue and the football season starting has brought the parties together with a 12-month agreement to use Noreuil Park.

Albury Umpires League life member Roger Lescun said his organisation wasn’t prepared to relinquish its grip on its lease with Albury Council for the use of Noreuil Park.

“We are confident everything has been concluded to everyone’s satisfaction,” he said.

“We are maintaining the lease. We’ve never had any objections to the operational changes that have taken place and we’ve even tried to assist them.”

The AFL North East Commission has boosted resources to improve umpiring numbers and standards locally.

But Mr Lescun said the lease simply couldn’t be transferred to the commission and would have been subject to an expressions of interest process had there been a change.

Commission general manager John O’Donohue said a plan was in place for temporary lighting in Wodonga if an agreement couldn’t be struck.

“What we wanted was total responsibility for things we are going to be held accountable for,” he said.

“Breaking away has been a good thing — it stamped a new beginning for umpiring.

“The lease sits with Albury Umpires League and we had to come to an arrangement with them.

“We will be the major tenant at times we need the venue.”

Umpires officiating in the Ovens and Murray and district leagues were previously under the control of the Albury Umpires League and trained twice a week at Noreuil Park.

The umpires league has a liquor licence and hires out its clubrooms for functions under its lease deal, which is less than half-way through.

District league teams and Albury junior football teams also use Noreuil Park for training purposes.