An increased level of umpire abuse at junior level has led the NWFL to introduce a demerit points system aimed at making coaches more accountable for their players and club officials.
Effective from this weekend's round of under 14 and under 16 games, as well as at under 18 level, the system sees coaches receive penalties ranging from one point through to three points for the following indiscretions:
- One point for each yellow card given to a player in their team.
- One point for inappropriate behaviour/language from their team bench.
- Two points for each melee involving their team.
- Three points for each reportable offence of which a player in their team is found guilty.
Where a coach accumulates 10 demerit points or more within the current season, they shall be suspended from coaching for the remainder of that season or until such time as application for reinstatement has been lodged and approved by the NWFL executive.
NWFL president Andrew Richardson said the implementation of the system, which has been borrowed from the Western Australian Amateur Football League, had been in the pipeline for some time.
It comes after the under 14 and under 16 competitions began having official North West Umpires Association members standing in games this season with less experienced umpires.
"We've had it for two years and thought about whether we should implement it or not," Richardson said.
"The fact that we now have official umpires for our junior games makes it easier - we're not reliant on club umpires - and lends itself to bringing the system in.
"To be honest, I don't think the abuse is a huge problem, but the trends are showing that it is starting to become more prevalent and we want to cut it off before it gets too bad.
"It's also there to make the game more enjoyable for the umpires to officiate in as well, instead of going to grounds and copping abuse."
Demerit points for coaches won't be backdated and Richardson said there will be only a minor increase in the workload of the senior umpire during the game.
"Any yellow or red cards are actually noted now and the umpires already report any team involved in a melee as well," he said.
"The only part the umpires will have to keep an extra eye on is the inappropriate behaviour or language from the team bench."
NWUA umpires coach Phil McCulloch welcomed the move by the league after witnessing first-hand the behaviour of junior players this year.
He believes a lack of knowledge of the rules of the game has contributed to the increased abuse directed at both him and other umpires.
"I umpired a junior game earlier this month and was surprised at the lack of understanding from junior players and I think it stems from the fact they have been used to having only volunteer umpires," he said.
"This year we have accredited NWUA umpires with junior umpires and players don't really understand the rules and react, unfortunately not in a good way.
"The NWFL has been quite proactive in bringing this in and we appreciate the support, because it is essential for us to have that environment where all umpires, but in particular juniors, want to come back to."