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Listen up AFL fans: there are new rules

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They’re not calling you thick, but AFL umpires reckon footy fans need more educating.

A survey of umpires found they believe they’re respected by just one in four fans.

So the AFL’s new umpiring director, Wayne Campbell, has urged fans to take heed when rule changes are explained to them before games this season.

Four key rule changes will be explained on video screens prior to matches and Campbell, a former Richmond captain, wants fans to go to school on the changes.

“Four rule changes have come from the rules committee, we think they’re common sense and will be well received by the public, the players and the clubs,” Campbell told reporters in Adelaide on Tuesday.

“We are really big on respect for umpires and trying to increase umpire numbers as well. We think through educating the media and the supporters, hopefully that will flow through.

“We want to educate the supporters on the rule changes.

“They are going to be put up on the screens (at grounds) before games. The four rule changes will be broken down and explained to the fans and also will go up on the AFL website as well.”

The four key changes relate to players making forceful contact below the knees of an opponent; players initiating head contact in trying to win a free kick; giving umpires discretion about players entering the protected area of an opponent and; giving players attempting to mark better protection.

Campbell’s call for greater education comes as umpire numbers around Australia fail to keep pace with the growth in numbers of games at all levels.

In recent years, the amount of games has increased more than 90 per cent but umpires numbers have risen just 23 per cent.

The AFL has added five new staff to bolster the umpiring department, but Campbell wouldn’t be drawn on any need for full-time AFL umpires.

But he does want umpires to take a greater profile at the elite level in a bid to earn more respect from fans.

“Through education and hopefully getting umpires out there a little bit, you will realise they’re good, passionate people,” he said.

“They understand absolutely that the players are the stars of the show and they’re there to serve the game.

“But I think we could use them to educate the media and the supporters as well.”

THE FOUR MAIN AFL RULE CHANGES

Forceful contact below the knees

A free kick will be paid if a player makes forceful contact below the knees of an opponent or acts in a manner likely to cause serious injury – even if contact does not occur.

Drawing head contact

A ball-carrying player who drives his head into an opponent will be deemed as having had prior opportunity and, if then tackled, has to dispose of the ball properly to not be penalised. If a player ducks into a tackle, causing high contact, play on will be called.

Protected area

Umpires now have discretion to decide if players in the protected area delay or impact the ball-carrier, rather than automatically giving a 50m penalty.

Marking contests

Marking players better protected with only “unduly” pushes, bumps, blocks or holds in a marking contest to be penalised.

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