The Victorian Football League Umpires Association (VFLUA) was formed in 1909 and since that date has represented all umpires officiating in senior VFL football and field umpires who officiated in country football as directed by the VFL Umpires Appointment Board until 1983.
The Association’s missions and objectives changed little in this time. It was recognised by the League as representative of umpires in relation to negotiating match fees and played an important role in decision making of the VFL on matters relating to umpiring. Two of the Association’s best achievements in this area were the creation of an independent Umpires appointment Board in 1931 and the introduction of an Umpires’ Provident Fund in the 1960s.
The Association was not just an liaison between the league and the umpires. It fostered camaraderie and friendship within the umpiring group with social functions, trips away and outlets for other sporting interests. Each years social calendar was packed with various functions including the Annual Gala Ball, which during the 1960s and 1970s attracted more than 1600 guests. End of season trips to interstate locations were a regular occurrence and fostered good relations between umpires in various states and the Association. The Association boasted a cricket club, golf club, bowls day and regular football match against a Pentridge Prison side.
Relations between the VFL and the Umpires’ Association has varied at times from the harmonious to the acrimonious, the low point being the one round ‘strike’ in 1981 that saw all senior field umpires resign on the Friday prior to a round of Saturday fixtures. The resolutions of this action led to a period of almost twenty years of good relations.
Between 1983 and 1989 all VFL umpires – regardless of grade – were represented by the VFLUA and at the end of the decade, with the demise of the VFA Umpires Association, took control of servicing their former members.
The 1990s saw tremendous changes in the structure of Australian football and the Association was carried along with the tide. In 1990 the Association was renamed Australian Football League Umpires Association (AFLUA) and restructured to incorporate the national perspective of the new AFL. This meant representatives from various states providing input and representation for members all around Australia and ultimately the national ideal was reached with the first non-Victorian AFLUA President.
Further changes to the AFLUA saw it bring Victoria into line with other states with the 1992 creation of the Victorian State Football League Umpires Association. The new VSFLUA was charged with representing umpires officiating in the AFL Reserves, VFA and newly emerging Victorian Under Eighteen’s competitions. Social functions were taken over by the new Association and as a result the AFLUA now represented only AFL umpires and turned its attention towards taking umpiring at the highest level to a new degree of professional representation.
The late nineties were a turbulent time. The most significant achievement of which was the hard-fought negotiation for the first Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. This was a landmark Agreement which signalled the professional approach to assuming responsibilities for servicing the industrial needs of its’ members. This Agreement paved the way for ongoing negotiation of the terms and conditions afforded to AFL umpires.
Whilst ultimately successful, the negotiation of the original Agreement left the Association divided and on the brink of extinction. However, through the recent work by a committed and focussed Executive Committee, support of members, and a positive working relationship with the AFL, the AFLUA has reasserted itself as a relevant and dynamic professional services organisation.
After a positive period of negotiation with the AFL, the Association signed the second Collective Bargaining Agreement in April 2001 which secures the terms and conditions of AFL umpires for a further 3 year period.
In 2003 the AFLUA instituted an Information and Research Committee. This on-going Committee has produced a range of fact sheets and articles that give a much more detailed review of the history and personalities that have been involved in over 100 years of VFL/AFL Umpiring.