Officials Blame Abuse From Spectators For Referee Shortage

News 6 - September 20, 2022 6:47 am

TULSA, Okla. – 

Youth sports leagues are facing a serious referee shortage, making it harder for games to even be played.

Referee shortages are affecting youth leagues all over the country. Some local refs say their biggest frustration isn’t on the field, it’s what people are saying and doing on the sidelines.

“The kids and the game itself is being so dirtied….so destroyed over the acts that should be adults in the sidelines,” local soccer referee Brian Barlow said.

Barlow believes the verbal, mental and sometimes physical abuse referees receive is taking a harsh toll.

He says there’s been a struggle to find new referees or retain the certified ones, which makes it harder for referees to want to stay on the job.

“They’re getting assigned five, six, seven, eight, nine games…..a day,” Barlow said.

The Oklahoma Soccer Association also released a statement saying in part:

“In recent years across the state of Oklahoma, we have seen a drastic decrease in those who want to be referees. Referees are tired of the abuse, both physical and verbal abuse, and constant complaints that happen during games. Many of these referees are minors and have been abused in one way or another by adults.”

In south jersey, refs said they were unavailable to work for two days, according to the Burlington County Times, forcing dozens of games to be canceled or rescheduled because of abuse the refs say is coming from the sidelines.

“They’re accepting no games at the high school level in South New Jersey, because it’s no longer rewarding for them,” Barlow said.

Barlow says this problem has always existed and admits it’s going to take time to fix it, but he hopes the parents will be ones to lead the change.

“The culture has to change, and it starts with the very people along the sidelines or in the stands,” Barlow said.

OSA says the are working with club officials about creating harsher penalties for physical and verbal abuse.

They also hope parents will simply be nicer to refs during the games.


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