Contrary to popular belief, AFL umpires do not have naturally higher voices to their rugby league and rugby union counterparts, a new study has confirmed.
A University of New South Wales research paper analysed the voice pitches of officials from Australia’s major football codes to determine whether AFL umpires’ squeaky, nasally grating voices are indeed reminiscent of elite jockeys, or simply a symptom of poor audio broadcast and the nature of the game itself. The paper also polled some 1,000 football fans of all codes to find out which officials came across as the most pedantic and likely to cause spectators the most frustration.
UNSW Department of Speech, Lanaguage and Hearing professor Simone Aitken said researchers used a complex mathematical formula to figure out which code’s officials were the most loathed. “Basically, using a 1-10 point spectrum, we multiplied the level of ‘perceived gayness’ by the level of ‘pedanticness’, then divided that by how physically unimpressive the officials were as a whole,” she said.
“On this basis, AFL umpires were quite comprehensively the most hated officials out of Australia’s four major football codes.”
However, Aitken said that while AFL umpires appeared on television to be the most annoying and punctilious of the football officials polled – primarily due to their girlish high-pitched voices – this was exacerbated by the need to project their voices over a larger playing surface than other officials, given the size of an AFL field.
“If you speak to AFL umpires – and this was part of our study – they’ve actually got quite deep voices in normal conversation. It’s just that when they have to shout out from 150 metres away to explain to an irate Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin why he’s been pinged for holding the man in a contest, their voices simply have to go up in pitch in order to travel said distance.”
Aitken made a raft of suggestions to the AFL on how to drive new respect for AFL umpires, including fitting officials with some kind of lapel-based loud speaker; hiring taller, more masculine umpires in order to minimise the level of hatred directed at the current crop; and even scrapping some of the more pedantic rules, like pinging fullbacks for harmlessly resting their arm on an opponents back in a marking contest.
“They could also stop referring to players by their first names as well; it just makes them sound desperate for approval. We know these guys are failed footy nerds who used to trade playing cards in the schoolyard, they could at least try to fucking mask that a bit,” she added.
By Dave Edwards