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Addressing Our Referee Shortage

You challenged me to come up with a solution to the referee shortage. This after I commented on an article, “TWO SOLUTIONS,” suggesting using a 2 man system of refereeing. While that idea does offer a short-term solution to covering more games with fewer referees, it still doesn’t address the underlying issue causing the shortage.

Referee abuse is the number one reason we are losing referees. When 14-18-year-old youths are belittled and berated by parents and coaches, it’s no wonder they don’t stay longer than a couple of years. Even older referees are getting tired of it and hanging up their whistles.

So how do we correct this abuse?

That’s a tricky question requiring much cooperation and collaboration to get under control. This will require soccer-sanctioning bodies to unite with the leagues, coaches, and referees to stop the abuse.

  • The sanctioning bodies determine what shall be deemed abuse and what is not. This needs to be the same for all the leagues that they govern.

If there are abuse claims, they must be thoroughly investigated. All parties involved must be allowed to hear the outcome of the investigation. Too often, referees complain, never to hear if anything was done about it.

  • Leagues, clubs, and coaches must be informed of any outcome of any investigations and what corrective measures need to be taken. Any possible actions that can be taken need to be common knowledge, whether it is a verbal warning, a fine, suspension, or any other action that could be taken. That way, the corrective measure doesn’t come as a surprise.

Education needs to be done.

  • Coaches need to be educated to keep current on the Laws of the Game, as too often, it’s a misunderstanding that causes abuse to grow.
  • Education for referees on how and when to deal with parents and coaches. Too often, referees create issues by not knowing how or when to deal with the situation. Sometimes just politely answering a coach’s question can be all that is needed. Older experienced referees have gotten used to ignoring the issue, and they need to stop being so “thick-skinned” and start dealing with the issue, as ignoring it hasn’t worked.
  • Some referee organizations have on-field training. This would be a great time to “stage” a situation to teach the newer referees how to deal with the situation—understanding when answering a question versus having to issue a card or even when a game needs to be abandoned. Telling them to Ignore it or to grow thicker skin isn’t the answer.
  • Have each team designate one adult to get certified as a referee. The club or team would pay for this. This is to increase the numbers and allow the teams to have someone currently on the Laws of the Game who can explain to them, if necessary, to those who aren’t knowledgeable. They also could step up and work a side-line when they are short referees.

Education truly is the key.

  • If the coaches understand the most current Laws of the Game, they will be less likely to challenge calls and more likely to ask what the call was.
  • Referees, in understanding how to work with coaches, can keep the coaches calmer, keeping their parents more subdued.
  • The sanctioning bodies need to educate all involved about consequences and what they are.

Only when all of this comes together will the problem stop growing, and soccer will be allowed to grow positively.

James Scaglione

USSF grade 8 since 2007, 

The picture has me in a pink jersey. I was at a tournament in October, and all of us in the crew decided to show support for Breast Cancer Awareness.

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