Former Richmond captain and current Tigers' official Wayne Campbell is to be announced as the AFL's new director of umpiring, replacing the long-time occupant of the position Jeff Gieschen.
Campbell, 41, will be officially appointed to the post when the league re-opens for business in the new year. His appointment is the latest attempt by the AFL to bring its football operations back to a closer connection with clubland, a direction which began with the appointment of former Hawthorn football manager Mark Evans to replace Adrian Anderson as head of its football department last March.
Campbell has spent the past seven years as an official and manager, first with the Western Bulldogs for two years, then with the Tigers for the past five seasons, working under senior coaches Rodney Eade, Terry Wallace, Jade Rawlings and Damien Hardwick. For the past 18 months, he has played a leading role in putting together Richmond's stand-alone VFL team.
Campbell played 297 games with Richmond between 1991 and 2005, winning four best and fairests and captaining the side for four seasons between 2001-04. The last of those best and fairests, in 1999, came under the coaching of Gieschen, the man he will now replace in umpiring's top job. He will be the front man for all matters AFL umpiring, working in conjunction with another new appointee, former field umpire Hayden Kennedy, who takes over from Rowan Sawers as umpires' coach.
"What attracted me to the role was working in a high performance environment where I think I can make an impact," Campbell said. "The breadth of management skills required in the implementation of the National Umpiring Plan is an area that excited me and I want to continue the good work already done in increasing the respect for umpires and help boost the number of umpires at grass roots level.
"As a team, we will also continue to explore ways to expand the diversity of umpires at all levels and I'm looking forward to meeting the umpiring fraternity and can't wait to get stuck into the role."
Evans said Campbell had shown he was a leader both on-field and around his club, and that his experience in implementing programs for elite performance at club level would be invaluable for AFL umpiring.
"His understanding of the modern game and trends on the field will assist the AFL Laws of the Game process and he possesses the administrative, management and leadership skills to drive the recruitment and retention of umpires nationally and expand the talent pathway programs," Evans said.
Kennedy was announced as Sawers' successor earlier this month after a sterling career with the whistle. He had spent the past two years as Sawers' full-time assistant after retiring from umpiring at the end of 2011. Kennedy, 48, umpired a record 495 AFL games, including five grand finals.
The AFL's Laws of the Game committee has already announced rule changes to be adopted for 2014, with umpires to award free kicks and report players for rough conduct if a bump results in contact to the head, placing the onus of "duty of care" squarely on the player making contact.
Players who uses their head to make forceful contact below the knees of an opponent, or act in a manner that could cause injury in the hope of winning a free kick, will also be penalised from next season, while players who duck into stationary or near-stationary opponents seeking high contact and a free kick will be penalised unless they legally dispose of the ball. The umpire will call play-on when a player ducks into a tackle.
But players will be given greater freedom in marking contests, after frustration over the hands-in-the-back rule, the AFL adding the word "unduly" in the definition of obstruction during a marking duel.
In other changes, interchange penalties have been relaxed, with teams not being penalised for an interchange breach if the guilty player returns to the interchange box immediately and has not interfered with play or another player.
And the league, seeking to reduce the number of people on the field at any one time, has also indicated that next season clubs will be able to use only one runner, whose time on the field will be restricted, while the number of trainers allowed to enter the field has been slashed from six to four, with a fifth trainer allowed on only for stretcher incidents.