Taufel, who has been the game’s premier umpire for many years, has written the entire course material himself and has created the programme in conjunction with the Dubai-based ICC Cricket Academy, which has contracted him. Taufel said the online course was based on a more practical approach to umpiring rather than the traditional “dry approach” which relied on studying the Laws of Cricket.
“What we’re launching at the ICC Academy is an umpire’s accreditation programme where we can benchmark some core competencies that we are looking for in cricket umpires at different levels,” Taufel told ESPNcricinfo. “So, we have three courses that we have developed/are developing. The first one is an introduction to umpiring, which is aimed at mums and dads and schoolteachers and people that are new to umpiring. Try and teach them the role of the umpire, what to do on match day, what to do in preparing for a cricket match and how to get them through their first experience of being a cricket umpire.
“The traditional approach in introducing umpires to cricket has simply been to teach them the Laws of Cricket. That has limited value, and it is a very dry approach to inducting new people to umpiring. What I would like to stress is, we’ve really focused on more video content. And trying to make it easier for people to watch and listen, rather than just reading lots of text.”
The courses take a matter of hours to get through and Taufel said that the Laws of Cricket were not part of any of the three programmes. Taufel also said that the existing umpires at all levels could partake of the course by attending Levels 1 and 2 progammes. “The umpiring pathway is outlined in the course and the accreditation levels match up to the different levels of the game. So someone who wants to start umpiring or just officiate school/ junior cricket would do the introduction course. Someone who wanted to progress and be ready to officiate club premier cricket [on turf] would do Level 1 first. There are recognised prior learning (RPLs) for Level 1 and 2 – an existing umpire may not need to do the introductory course level for example based on their level of experience and capabilities.”
Taufel stressed that while the online course did not have the Laws as a component, it did provide the link to the MCC Laws e-learning platform.
“Accreditation is not pass or fail,” he said. “You understand the core competencies of what it takes to be a cricket umpire. So, how do we communicate? How do we manage conflict? Or how do we deal with pressure? How do we respond to appeals? What to expect in our first experience with cricket umpiring? And how can we prepare for that? We can either show those competencies or we can keep continuing to work through them. If someone doesn’t give us all the answers that we’re looking for, they can keep going through the material until they do understand it.”
The Level 1 course is for the umpire at a more premier level, who might be looking at it as a career path. The Level 2 course is still being developed but, Taufel said, “would be our national panel level or pathway representative cricket umpires and so, we want to get into more technique, put some more meat on the bones.”
This is a first-of-its-kind global accreditation course on umpiring, and one open to the public. Taufel said it was an opportunity for the ICC as well as member boards to “encourage” umpiring by backing the online course. Taufel, though, said that clearing the online course did not mean the umpire would be qualified to officiate in competitive matches straightaway. But it would equip the person with wide knowledge and resources which currently, Taufel pointed out, is only learned by umpires “on-the-job”.
“We’ve sort of gone into areas that traditional umpire education doesn’t necessarily go into. We do a lot more match management and resourcing. We do a lot more technique resourcing around positioning and the people skills involved. And again, it’s do-it-at-your-own-pace. It’s something that isn’t overly onerous. And you don’t have to, sort of, sign up for multiple nights or weekends to do that. It is reasonably flexible.
‘There are many Full Member countries where their filter is a Laws exam. And umpiring is so much more than just passing a Laws exam’
“What I would like to point out is that accreditation is not training, they are completely different. So, it does set the benchmark and help prepare and confirm that the umpire is ready for that level that they’re willing to take on. I think there’s a real gap in the needs of the umpires, people that are new to the sport or people who want to develop their skills. There’s a real gap between that and what a lot of the governing bodies are offering. And that’s unfortunate. So, what we’ve tried to do here, with the ICC Academy, is to fill some of that gap.”
Taufel pointed out that getting accredited was different to training as an umpire. Accreditation, Taufel said, was about “understanding what the competencies are and to meet those benchmarks [standards].” In case one was not competent in an area then the person would need more training and education.
Taufel, who retired from international cricket in 2012 having won the ICC’s Umpire of the Year award on multiple occasions, remains an influential voice on the officiating side of the game. He said that, unlike coaching, umpiring did not have a uniform system of evaluation.
This online programme could, he said, be customised by the ICC as well as the member boards to their requirements. It could also help the governing bodies dedicate more personnel and resources for making umpiring a vital cog in cricket development which currently in several countries is negligible.
“A lot of countries do not have dedicated resources for umpiring. There are a lot of countries and members who don’t have a person responsible for umpiring. And as a result, what we are lacking is sort of clear directions: what is effective training and coaching for cricket umpires? What is a clear assessment for umpires? What is a clear pathway? And what is, I suppose, a clear selection policy?
“We hope that in providing this resource, we are going to be able to have a lot more firmer conversations with those governing bodies to see how this can either dovetail into where they’d like to go because they might have nothing or they might just have in many countries at the moment, the only accreditation they’ve got, the only pass or fail mechanism they’ve got, is purely a Laws’ exam.
“There are many Full Member countries where their filter is a Laws exam. And umpiring is so much more than just passing a Laws exam. Umpiring is something that a lot of countries only really assist with on-the-job training. And what we’re trying to do here is to really create awareness, a competency around all those other things that go into empowering other than just the Laws.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo