SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - While many industries have taken a hit over the past year, one has been on the decline long before the pandemic.
Soccer is currently dealing with a shortage of referees and if it isn’t fixed quickly, it could impact those who love the game the most.
“It’s been an issue that has definitely kind of always been there but in the last two or three years it’s gotten much worse,” said Savannah United Select Program Director Jeff Storey-Pitts.
The nationwide referee shortage impacting local clubs like Savannah United.
“We have had games where we’ve gone away or even hosted game where we couldn’t get enough referees,” said Storey-Pitts.
An issue they’re also seeing at the high school level.
“You got Tuesday and Thursday nights for high school and you got all the high schools playing and you run out of referees,” said High School Soccer Association President Victor Tetreault.
So, what’s at the core of the shortage?
“Retention of the younger referees,” Tetreault says.
A struggle those closest to the game feel stems from how referees are treated, specifically, by parents.
“They think you’re out there to ruin their kid’s life and it’s like, ‘no, I’m just here to call the game according to the rules,’” says Tertreault, who has been a ref himself for the past ten years.
A tough job, but one that could benefit young players.
“It’s a way for them to earn money, get some responsibility and it’s flexible,” says Tetreault.
Plus, it could even help quiet down some of the harshest critiques.
“I wish every parent would referee at least a couple games. Go get certification, go out there and realize it ain’t as easy as it looks,” laughs Tetreault.
But, If we can’t find a way to cheer for the players and not against the refs, it may be all of us who lose.
“It’s an unfortunate reality for the players who really are the one’s who suffer in the end,” said Storey-Pitts.
While their biggest gap in referees are those ages 20 to 40 they will take refs of any age, even as young as 11, whether you have prior experience playing soccer or not.
For more information on how you can become a referee click you can email Savannah United at email@example.com or the high school soccer association at firstname.lastname@example.org