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Half of cricket umpires face verbal abuse - research

Cricket umpire Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption 56% of cricket umpires say they have been the victim of verbal abuse according to a new survey.

More than half of cricket umpires say they have been a victim of verbal abuse, according to a new research seen by the BBC.

The University of Portsmouth gathered data from hundreds of umpires about the abuse they receive.

Around 50% said abuse, such as swearing and aggressive confrontations, had increased in recent times.

Cricket chiefs said umpires were vital to the game and the findings were "disappointing but not surprising".

Spitting and swearing

One umpire, who wanted to remain anonymous, has been officiating in Derbyshire for six years.

He told 5 live Investigates that he regularly encounters problems.

"I've had a person spit at me… how would you feel if someone spat at you? I think it's the most deplorable and disgusting thing you could ever think of.

"I've been sworn at… that's a regular thing, every match."

A total of 763 umpires in England responded to the survey. The vast majority were officiating at a recreational level.

Half said that they received abuse every couple of games or a couple of times a season.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption In 2015, five matches in the recreational game in the UK had to be abandoned following outbreaks of violence.

'Concerning'

Just over 40% said that abuse was making them question whether or not to continue umpiring.

Dr Tom Webb, senior lecturer in sports management at the University of Portsmouth and one of academics behind the research, said: "What we are noticing is there is an underlying trend here and particularly in cricket, given the spirit of cricket, there is an issue and something that needs to be addressed."

In addition, nearly 3% said they had been a victim of physical abuse as an umpire.

"We didn't expect to see any umpires in cricket saying they had been physically abused. So that is concerning," added Dr Webb.

Abuse of umpires is not the only concern affecting the sport.

Violence

In 2015, five recreational matches in the UK had to be abandoned because of violence.

Chris Brownhill from Kingswinford was taking part in a Sunday friendly earlier this year when fighting broke out.

"All hell broke loose," he said. "One of our lads said a comment he shouldn't have then the batsman peeled off his pads and came charging towards our fielder.

"I managed to restrain him for a little bit before people were descending into a brawl."

Meanwhile, a cricketer in Sheffield was banned from playing the sport for 12 years after he assaulted another player during a match in July.

The game's law-makers, the MCC, have been trialling new on-field sanctions in an attempt to improve behaviour.

They range from penalty runs to giving umpires the power to dismiss players.

MCC head of laws Fraser Stewart said a final decision had yet to be made on whether they would be enshrined in law: "It's something we trialled this year and we're just getting the feedback which initially seems quite positive."

Nick Cousins, head of the England and Wales Cricket Board Association of Cricket Officials (ACO), said: "The game cannot afford to lose these people.

"If we are being told that large numbers of them are considering giving up the game because of increasing amounts of player abuse, then the one thing we can't do is nothing.

"We'll continue to work hard to improve player behaviour to ensure that players and umpires have a good experience when they take part in the game."

5 live Investigates is on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 6th November at 11:00 GMT. Listen online or download the programme podcast.

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