The AFL has reportedly formed a working party to assess how a four field-umpire system could work in 2023.
A move to four field umpires was first flagged by journalist Caroline Wilson in August, with the league aiming to reduce the physical toll on officials and help pave the way for more women in the role.
The Age’s Peter Ryan reports the idea has now moved into a testing phase, with AFL officials, umpiring coaches and umpires discussing how the concept could work in practice.
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The report added the move could be first trialed in the Northern Territory Football League, which is played during the summer, ahead of a possible introduction in the AFL come the start of the 2023 season.
Four field umpires were trialled during rounds 13 and 14 of the 2018 season under then football operations boss Steve Hocking.
Results showed high intensity running declined, while there was a slight increase in free kicks.
“It’s going to look a bit different … the big thing about next year is to reduce the physical toll on umpires. They’ll still run the same distance, but there won’t be the need for speed,” Wilson said on Footy Classified in August.
“It’s seen as a way to bring more women into the game and umpiring … women can’t hope to run the speed and distances that the men can in this physical game.”
It was reportedly one of two items discussed by the AFL commission Monday along with the removal of the centre bounce. And while the commission is yet to ratify the removal of the centre bounce, Wilson reports it’s “not off the table.”