Referee shortage leading to postponed, cancelled games
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A shortage of referees in West Virginia is causing games to be postponed and cancelled.
David Riedel is the recruiting coordinator for the River Cities Football Officials Association.
Riedel says referees are frequently the target of verbal abuse coming from the stands from parents upset with calls. He says fan behavior has gotten significantly worse in recent years.
“Parents are just so intense, even at the youth league games,” he said.
Riedel says during the 2019 season, he was even threatened to be shot at a game.
He believes such behavior is a large reason why fewer people are taking referee jobs.
In the 1990s, his organization had a staff of 130 refs. This year, they’re down to 41.
“We’ve got two or three guys who will step out in the next couple years, and there is nobody to replace them,” Riedel said.
Spring Valley athletic director Tim George agrees the hostility toward officials needs to be dialed back.
“Lately we’ve had more problems with fans and the way they’re treating officials,” George said.
Riedel is calling on fans to do their part to stop driving people away from the job.
“I understand yelling, cheering, and booing is part of it,” Riedel said, “but when you make it personal, and you come after us after a game, that’s way over the line. My plea is if you think we’re making bad calls, come on out. We have a rookie class in May or June. We’d love to have you join our ranks.”
He believes social media has played a role in increasingly unruly behavior.
“All you have to do is go look at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and you’ll see the nastiness of people,” he said.
The WVSSAC currently has less than 530 referees. Typically they have more than 600.
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