A shortage of referees continues to be a problem nationally and in the state. The Louisiana Football Officials Association addressed the issue at a training clinic held in Youngsville on Saturday. There are several issues around this shortage.
Normally, a football game calls for six to seven referees on the field, but there’s only been enough for five.
“We have to kind of open up our vision a little bit more, officiate more area than we would normally have to, and that just causes a few things; we may miss calls here and there,” said Mandeville-based referee Micheal Vandervelde.
According to the LHSOA, the shortage has been happening within the last eight to ten years.
Sometimes, games and referees have to be moved around to accommodate the minimum standard.
“Schools are playing more sports, in terms of levels, a high school now has a 7th grade team, an 8th grade team, and a varsity, so there’s more games being played, you need more officials,” said LHSOA President Paul Larosa.
Larosa also sees the harassment from fans as an issue that’s driving men and women away from the job.
“We’re having more instances of people attending games, whether it’s high school or recreation, who are frankly over-the-top with their behavior. So, many people think: ‘Why do I give up my free time to go somewhere, do a good job, and then get harassed?’ So, it’s an issue for us,” said Larosa.
That may be changing. Earlier this month, a bill was passed onto the governor for a signature that creates penalties for those who harass or threaten referees.
Many remain hopeful that the new penalties being introduced will protect them and bring change.
“We don’t want to be under attack. We’re giving back. We’re not making a whole lot of money,” said Vandervelde. “It’s for the kids, and so if that bill comes to play, it’s going to be one layer of safety for everyone. And, I think that’s the most important: keeping everyone safe.”
Fans found guilty of threatening referees could face 90 days of jail time.
While the job can be tough, some officials say the good outweighs the bad.
“It’s a great thing for people to come out on a Friday night and give back to local kids in the community. Officiating is great,” said Vandervelde. “We want more people to come out.”
If you want to be so official that you get a whistle, check out LHSOA for more information.