The AFL is open to the idea of having four field umpires in all games next year, having announced that it will trial four umpires during rounds 12 and 13.
The AFL's general manager of football, Steve Hocking, said four umpires would not be introduced full-time this season, but it was on the agenda for consideration in 2019. "In the future, yes,'' said Hocking, when asked if the four umpires could become the norm. "Not in this season, no.''
Hocking said four umpires was a possibility for next year. "It's one of the things on [the agenda]''. During the upcoming trial, two of the four umpires will be stationed in the middle of the ground, between the two arcs, with one umpire placed inside each of the 50-metre arcs at each end. The AFL says the umpires will be positioned to reflect the way the game is played today.
Hocking said one of the reasons for the trial was to see whether four umpires could extend the careers of the better decision-makers, by reducing their physical demands.
Hocking said the umpiring department – which is headed by Grant Williams and ex-umpire Hayden Kennedy – wanted to try four umpires for these 12 matches to see the impact on how the game was umpired. The AFL has trialled four umpires in the past, but this trial is the most extensive and clearly is a trial for its potential introduction full-time.
The 18 clubs have been sent a memo explaining the rationale for the four-umpire experiment, such as positioning the umpires to reflect the way the different way the game is played today.
Another reason for the trial was to allow the better umpires to officiate in multiple games (across the same round) if the physical demands are decreased.