Umpires agree to cuts as part of cost-saving measures

The number of officials on Cricket Australia’s National Umpire Panel has been reduced by two as the organisation cuts costs across all departments

Australia's leading umpires face the prospect of officiating in more matches than normal this summer, with the national panel reduced by two as part of budget cuts at Cricket Australia.

In April, senior umpires were approached to consider ways to reduce expenditure after news emerged of cost-cutting and staff stand downs as part of CA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country's leading on-field officials have since agreed to change their Memorandum of Understanding with the governing body, with a previously mandated panel of 12 umpires reduced to 10 for the upcoming season.

It effectively means that Simon Fry and John Ward, who retired earlier this year, have not been replaced, while Darren Close has taken the place of Geoff Joshua, who did not have his contract renewed.

While the full schedule for the summer is yet to be released – reducing the length of some domestic competitions has been discussed with stakeholders as a possible cost-cutting measure – the panel of 10 will seemingly have to stand in more games than last season, while their total payment pool has been reduced.

The domestic fixture has not yet been confirmed, but it's also likely they will travel less during the season and officiate more matches in their home cities as part of further cost-cutting.

The National Rugby League was recently involved in a disagreement with its referees, which was only resolved less than a week before the season resumed last month. But cricket has avoided any such dispute and CA's Head of Cricket Operations, Peter Roach, praised the umpiring group for stepping forward with an agreement to reduce head count.

"When we were faced with the position of having to find 25 per cent savings this year, the umpire leadership group willingly engaged in discussions and said, 'we're here to help'," Roach told cricket.com.au.

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"Very quickly (we) came to an outcome of finding some reductions in that MOU. The umpires had every right to say 'no, that’s an existing deal' but they came to the table and said they were there to help.

"We’re very thankful for that leadership group and the whole umpiring group ... for being so open in their willingness to assist.

"They're a terrific group of people who have the game's interests at heart."

Australia's umpires don't have an official union and are instead represented by a group of three senior officials who are voted in each year by their peers.

Members of the 10-man panel earn a set retainer each year, while the four umpires that have been nominated to also stand in men’s internationals– Gerard Abood, Shawn Craig, Sam Nogajski and Paul Wilson – can also earn match payments from the International Cricket Council.

Australians Bruce Oxenford, Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker are all part of the ICC's Elite Panel of umpires.

While CA is also looking to save money by reducing how often its officials travel during the season, Roach said the organisation remains committed to umpire development by exposing them to the varying conditions around the country while also avoiding any issues around competition integrity by ensuring an even spread of umpires amongst teams.

"The umpiring fraternity does get stretched during the summer, especially during the BBL period when you can be on the road for a number of days and weeks at a time, without spending any meaningful time at home," he said.

"So we'll try and find that balance between travelling enough, but equally spending more time at home, which has the dual benefit of saving some costs but it allows them to stay fresher and sleep in their own bed more often."

Cricket Australia’s 2020-21 National Umpire Panel: Gerard Abood*, Darren Close, Shawn Craig*, Greg Davidson, Phil Gillespie, Mike Graham-Smith, Donovan Koch, Sam Nogajski*, Tony Wilds, Paul Wilson*

Supplementary Umpire Panel: Nathan Johnstone, Simon Lightbody, Troy Penman, Claire Polosak, David Taylor, Ben Treloar

*nominated to the ICC as umpires for Men’s Internationals