Cincinnati Area Referees Face Shortages, Fan Abuse

March 31, 2022 / Athletic AdministrationCoachingSoccer
Much like the rest of the country, the Cincinnati area is facing an official shortage at the middle school and high school level — particularly soccer referees.

While the COVID-19 pandemic exasperated the issue — pushing older referees into retirement and scaring off potential new recruits — it isn’t the only issue.

refereesAccording to a recent report from, parent and fan abuse toward referees is keeping even more potential new recruits away from the game.

Below is an excerpt from the report.

Randy Clark, a referee himself, is also the referee assigner for 13 different clubs and three high schools in the Greater Cincinnati area.

“I’ve done this for 18 years, and I’ve developed thick skin,” said Clark.

Clark said he’s trying to schedule referees for 600 games this season, and his job has become significantly more difficult for one big reason: the backtalk on the sidelines.

“Referees are just sick and tired of listening to it. There’s only so much you can take in a day,” said Clark.

Coach Will Peppard sees the abuse toward referees from the sidelines firsthand.

“I think in every sport — you’ve heard it a thousand times that coaches and parents can be hard on officials, and I think that scares a lot of younger officials away,” said Peppard.

Peppard said the biggest challenge now is convincing the younger generation to get on the pitch and make tough calls in a sea of passionate parents. Because, at the end of the day, when there’s not a pool of referees to choose from, it’s the players who suffer.

“That’s hard on the families and frustrating for the kids that are expecting to play, and they go all the way to a game and it doesn’t happen,” said Peppard.

This isn’t a unique problem in the sport of soccer though. Football, baseball, and softball are dealing with the same issues. The National Federation of State High School Associations says there are 50,000 fewer officials today than in 2019.

“Last year, there was approximately 800 referees in the Cincinnati area. This year, we are down approximately 500 for just the club side of things,” said Clark.

To get someone to call the fouls on the field, the foul behavior from parents and fans on the sideline may need a serious adjustment.

“At some point … games are going to be canceled on a regular basis,” said Clark.

Referees get paid anywhere from $28 to $50 an hour for officiating.

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