by Hannah Driscoll reporting for the Weekly Times, originally published by the Weekly Times on August 1st, 2018

The Omeo and District Football League is to boost umpire security at its upcoming finals series after a game was called off on Saturday July 28th.

The league has launched an investigation after umpires ended the Swan Reach-Buchan match in the second quarter.

Omeo and District president Ray Gallagher said beefed up security would see a doubling of umpire escorts at finals to two security guards.

He said the measure was the result of a request from umpires.

In a statement, the league yesterday said it was “dismayed that the media and associated community responses have so quickly escalated, placing undue stress on volunteers and officials and potentially undermining the investigation process”.

In a radio interview on Monday a man identifying himself as the father of the teenage umpire from the called-off match made serious allegations about what occurred, including the behaviour of Swan Reach’s president towards the umpires.

The league yesterday claimed the Swan Reach president had received “abusive phone calls and threats to property and person. Obviously this is now a police matter”.

“Unfortunately there is a lot of publicity given to this event with numerous people freely giving their version of what happened,” the league statement read.

“As some of these accounts are from people who did not witness the incident first hand, and for various other reasons, a number of untruths have been circulated.

“Despite some of these untruths having been retracted they have continued to gain momentum wider afield with very serious consequences.

“Whilst the umpires didn’t feel safe on the ground, footage of the incident doesn’t support the statement made on radio by a person who wasn’t there that the umpires ran from the ground.

“It is our understanding that with the encouragement of the Swan Reach president, the designated umpire escort followed the umpires to their room and made sure they were OK, as per the requirements of his job.”

The league said it was dealing with the situation through the “appropriate processes”, and both clubs had agreed to fully co-operate.

This was the final match for both Buchan and Swan Reach since neither has qualified for finals, which begin this weekend.

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