AFL umpires coach Hayden Kennedy has resigned, effective immediately.
Kennedy, who has been in the role since 2013, told the umpires at training on Tuesday night that he would not be continuing in the role.
It’s unclear exactly what has prompted Kennedy, one of the most experienced and highly regarded officiators the game has seen, to suddenly resign only weeks into the season.
Multiple football sources have indicated there has been growing friction between senior umpires and league football boss Steve Hocking.
Focus on umpires has increased in recent seasons. In early 2019, senior umpire Shaun Ryan felt compelled to go on 3AW after several umpires felt let down by the AFL for not supporting them after a controversial finish to the Anzac Day clash.
Collingwood won that game by four points after a series of non-decisions went against Essendon late in the game.
Last year, Hocking and the AFL issued a memo to umpires midway through the season, requesting a tighter application of the holding the ball rule, relating to players making a genuine attempt to dispose of the ball.
Hocking and the AFL have spent recent seasons tweaking the interpretation of certain rules to open the game up and reduce congestion, which they had hoped would ultimately lead to higher scoring.
Things changed even more drastically this year when the league introduced the controversial “stand” rule, whereby players on the mark weren’t allowed to move once advised by the umpire.
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