In preparation for the first ever league matches on May 8th 1897, the umpires were announced during the week. Those included Tom Kendall, Thomas McCoy, Samuel Hood and Henry ‘Ivo’ Crapp. The 4 central umpires, as well as goal umpires were all asked to meet with the umpire committee at Port Phillip Club Hotel on the eve of the season. Ivo Crapp traveled to Geelong the following day to umpire the game at Geelong’s Corio Oval, between Geelong and Essendon. Like many reports on a game of football, the opinions on the umpiring of the game differ. It is agreed that at the beginning of the game, as noted by The Sportsman, the players reverted to the old system of ‘little marking’, before they realized that the rules had changed. Markwell of the Australasian newspaper noted that throughout the game ‘Umpire Crapp often allowed marks of half, or less than half, the prescribed distance to pass unquestioned’.
However The Geelong Advertiser felt that Ivo Crapp did a great job, remarking that ‘Mr Crapp, the field umpire, had mastered the new rules, and he gave a very good interpretation to them. The privilege allowed of pushing a player, except when a player is standing or in the act of marking the hall, reintroduced some of the rough play which in former years was greatly condemned, and in many instances Saturday's exhibition was not what the general public desired to see’.
The game ended with a win to Essendon over the inexperienced Geelong team. Crapp would go on to umpire each of these teams 5 more times in the 1897 season, including the very first final played down in Geelong later in the season. Overall the inclusion of the new league rules was well received, with one exception, the push in the back rule. The push in the back rule was abolished to start the season pushing from behind was allowed when the pusher and the pushed are stationary. However there was such an outcry raised by all the clubs following the opening of the season that prominent players in every team have taken a stand against the rule . A round of experience was enough to convince all delegates at a mid week meeting, to another weak of the rule would be detrimental to the interests of the game. Umpires were at the meeting and were told to not go overboard with enforcing the rule.