Are standards of behaviour in the club game slipping?
The League I play in certainly think so. For the 2009 season, they have introduced a football-style disciplinary system, with “yellow card” cautions and “red card” 8-day automatic suspensions and points deductions for more serious offences. This in addition to the regular disciplinary process.
After 5 rounds of matches (100 matches at 1st XI, where independent panel umpires are appointed), there have already been 3 red cards. It would be interesting to hear from a panel umpire whether this reflects better or worse behaviour than last season.
I don’t know the details of any of the offences, but I would not be surprised if they all relate to “abusive language / disparaging remarks to an umpire” – the umpire’s decision is no longer considered final, apparently.
This attitude seems to start early. I umpired a pick-up game at our Colts’ practice night, and almost every decision was debated.
Where does it come from? Probably not the First Class game, where open dissent at umpires decisions is (rightly) punished. Professional football? Popular culture?
Does it matter? Yes, as demonstrated in amateur football, where the numbers of referees continues to fall; yes, because when I finally stop playing, it is very unlikely that I (or, I expect, any of my contemporaries) would consider joining the League panel of umpires.
Competitive cricket without independent umpires? I don’t think the game would survive.