Referee Shortages Affecting Fall Sports in Multiple States

August 31, 2022 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Parts of Maine, Tennessee, New York, and Minnesota are seeing the early signs of strain in their fall sports seasons due to the ongoing referee shortages facing the country currently.

As the calendar turns from August to September, the fall sports schedule ramps up in full effect but the pool of available referees to officiate all the games is quickly evaporating.

shortagesBelow are excerpts from various news outlets highlighting the referee shortage in their respective areas.

According to a recent report from WGME 13, Maine high schools are already shuffling schedules due to the referee shortage. Ronald Kramer, an official, sent a public letter to the Maine Principals’ Association about multiple issues, including pay. He says that, and other problems are leading to these shortages.

To fix it, he wants to work together with the MPA in a “true partnership,” figure out the solution across youth, high school, and college sports, and establish a program to recruit and retain younger officials.

MPA Commissioner Jeff Benson responded to Kramer’s letter, saying:

“The MPA is doing all that it can to get new officials. The value that our role as officials play in athletics, is student-athletes get a chance to play.”

A report from WSMV 4 in Nashville noted a similar shuffling of schedules from the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA).

One of the TSSAA’s solutions is requiring games to be played on Thursday nights. Some high schools agreed to move one of their games from Friday nights.

“If I had 25 games on Friday night, which I could have, then we couldn’t service,” Junior Ward, supervisor and assigning officer for Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association said.

This year alone he said 15 officials in Middle Tennessee transferred from other states, but that’s not the case everywhere. The TSSAA said before COVID it had 1,500 officials in Tennessee. Now, that number is closer to 1,300.

Another report from Western New York’s Eerie News Now noted that referees from Section VI are not planning to return to the field from August 29 through September 10, as their current work contract expired on August 31.

The sticking point, according to the High School Sports Officials of Western New York, lies with Section VI, which is unwilling to increase referees’ pay in times of inflation even after their pay was frozen for two years.

Officials sought a $4 raise in the first year of a six-year agreement, however, say they were only offered $2 raise with no opportunity to expand the figure.

Currently, referees say those in Western New York are among the lowest-paid in the state.

Section VI President and Southwestern School Superintendent Maureen Donahue spoke on the dispute for the first time Friday, saying in part, “it is the position of Section VI not to negotiate contracts in public. The appearance of a potential work stoppage will negatively impact our member schools and student-athletes. We continue to value our officials in the service they provide to our student-athletes.”

And, finally, a Fox 9 Minneapolis report highlighted how every youth or amateur sport in Minnesota is having trouble finding people to officiate games.

To watch the video package from Fox 9 Minneapolis about local referee shortages, click here.