Catapult and Champion Data combine for data-driven approach to additional AFL umpire

Catapult are working with Champion Data, the official competition data supplier of the Australian Football League (AFL), to supply tracking data during trials for a fourth field umpire.

The data collected from the two rounds played with four umpires will be compared with previous rounds involving the standard three umpires to better understand field coverage, performance demands, and positioning for real-time decisions.

Steve Hocking, AFL Football Operations Manager, announced that the trial would deploy the umpires in a different structure in a move he hoped could identify a way to extend the careers of the game’s best officiators.

“In the past what we’ve tended to do is put that extra set of eyes around where all the numbers are,” said Hocking. “(In this trial) there will actually be an officiating umpire within the forward 50 and the back 50, and there will be two central umpires as well.

“The other extension of that is we’ve got really, really good umpires. We’ve got some elite decision-makers, and as their age profile changes are we able to keep them in the game? Can they become umpires that are able to run less but retain their experience in the game?

“We’re going to collect a lot of data on the back of this. All the umpires will have GPS (monitors) and (we’ll) see if that layout, that structure across the ground decreases their load as well.

“Does it also give us the ability to introduce younger umpires at either end of the ground? Potentially that might be one of the upsides to it and a bit of mentoring can go with that.”

Hocking said umpires’ total running loads had not changed significantly in the past four umpire trials, but they had done less high-intensity running.

Nicole Pensko, Catapult’s Head of Australia and New Zealand Partnerships, is pleased to see the use of technology to influence such as important decision in the sport and also to extend the capabilities of the joint venture with Champion Data and the AFL to be able to do this.

“This is a positive initiative and it’s pleasing to see AFL umpires’ performance being monitored in this way. We look forward to further examples of what can be achieved through Catapult technology and the partnership with Champion Data and the AFL.”

To find out more about how Catapult can help the performance of umpires across a range of sports, or complement bespoke research projects, get in touch here

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