For a long time, many sports organizations have been dealing with a nationwide referee shortage. Covid 19, the need to adopt modern technologies, and abuse from fans and parents have all led to a severe dip in the supply of professional officiators. This has given rise to unique concerns among many sports organizations, as they worry that there might not be a referee for their next game. What's more, this scarcity exists in all sports, at all levels of the profession, regardless of the certification process and required skills.
Which Sports Are Being Impacted
Some sports however are being impacted more than others. There has been a major hockey referee shortage as USA Hockey has communicated that they have experienced a retention rate of hockey referees annually of around 60%. There also seems to be a baseball and football referee shortage as well, as their numbers come in around the same. What these sports all have in common is that they are expensive and actively require officials to make calls that drastically impact the game.
Inevitably, the amount a parent will spend on their child's athletic endeavor will be proportional to the parent's interest in that player's sporting season. If a referee hands out a three-game suspension to a hockey player whose parent has paid $10,000 for season fees there may be backlash. Not only will this kid miss a portion of their $10,000 season, but the opposing team will also get a 5-minute power play, which is a huge in-game advantage. Sports like football and baseball offer similar scenarios.
What’s Causing The Nationwide Referee Shortage
When an industry is struggling to deal with entry-level employees at career-rate pay, there's a serious flaw. So, what could be the cause? Is its outdated technology and employment methods in the sector? Or perhaps abusive behavior between coaches and players and their parents? Is it the long unorganized certification processes needed to become a referee? We believe that the correct answer is a mix of it all.
The referee industry is currently stuck using antiquated technologies that have not been updated since the beginning of the internet era. Because of this, the industry is truly lacking essentials and missing many opportunities to become more efficient -- efficiency that can be provided by modern technologies and an improved job-seeking system. The employment methods are a bit outdated, too. Referees are still assigned work through third-party schedulers rather than being able to select their own schedule, as one can on a platform like Uber or Doordash.
Referees face a lot of abuse from the peanut gallery at sporting events. Regardless of whether an athletic referee does well, the other half of the crowd will accuse him or her of being blind or narrow-minded, or cognitively inadequate. Perhaps verbal abuse has been so intense that it would not make sense to earn a living from the profession with what things are at present.
Above all, it isn't easy to become a referee, the barrier of entry is relatively high compared to some other entry-level jobs. Referees in some sports must complete several-hour training courses, exams, seminars, and in-person skills assessments. Perhaps the aspiring referee has decided that it's easier to start making money at a job that requires less up-front work.
The Solution to the Referee Shortage
The sporting world is not going to perish. Nevertheless, despite the numerous challenges that have arisen in the present hockey referee shortage as well as with other sports, we firmly believe that these issues are easily solvable. The first step is going to be introducing new technologies to the referee industry that make it easier for referees to navigate their independent careers. The world has seen this happen in the food delivery industry, the transportation industry, and the freelance industry. The referee industry needs to make it easy for the referee to sign up, find work, and get paid.
The next problem that needs to be tackled is solving the abuse that referees constantly face. Perhaps the solution to this is to put our job-seeking teenage athletes in referee positions. This will create new referee jobs, allow the youth to make some extra money on the side, and most importantly it will allow the kids' parents to know and hear from a referee on a personal level.
Refr Sports has the technology available to connect qualified sports officials with sports venues and organizations, effectively providing a simple solution to the referee shortage. If you are interested in signing up as a referee or need a referee for your sporting event, please feel free to contact us!