Referee shortage will push solutions and clinics to open

On September 21, it was noted in the Six Nations Minor Lacrosse Association (SNMLA) Facebook group that the referee shortage in Minor Field is ‘dire’ and moved to affect game scheduling.

“In Week 1 we were forced to cancel games for the first time ever because of a referee shortage. Week 2 some dedicated people and a lot of schedule shuffling meant everything barely got covered,” wrote the moderator. “You are receiving this message because every effort is being made to make sure young people get to play the game of lacrosse and we have a chance to make sure this happens,” it read, directed to the parents of the group.

To help accommodate the shortage, the SNMLA announced a coaching clinic on September 21. The mens field clinic via zoom set to certify officials of all levels. New officials were to be provided a starter kit including jersey, hat, whistle, and flag (1) so there are no hidden costs to join the team. The urgent games that needed to be covered are set to take place on Saturdays until Thanksgiving in Brampton.

This is just one measure being taken across the board to recruit and retain new officials.

Reported in earlier August, parts of Maine, Tennessee, New York, and Minnesota were seeing the early signs of strain in their fall sports seasons due to the ongoing referee shortages facing the USA.

As the calendar turned from August to September, the fall sports schedule ramped up in full effect but the pool of available referees to officiate all the games had quickly evaporated.
According to a recent report from WGME 13, Maine high schools are already shuffling schedules due to the referee shortage. Ronald Kramer, an official, sent a public letter to the Maine Principals’ Association about multiple issues, including pay and other problems that are leading to the shortages.

To fix it, it is hoped that a “true partnership,” will figure out a solution across youth, high school, and college sports, and establish a program to recruit and retain younger officials.

Another report from Western New York’s Eerie News Now wrote that referees involved in a specific contract section were not planning to return to the field from August 29 through September 10, as their work contract expired on August 31.

The driving point, according to the High School Sports Officials of Western New York, was with the section that rules the organization is unwilling to increase referees’ pay in times of inflation even after their pay was frozen for two years. Officials sought a $4 raise in the first year of a six-year agreement, however, were cited as only being offered a $2 raise with no opportunity to expand.

Finally, a Fox 9 Minneapolis report highlighted that every youth or amateur sport in Minnesota is having trouble finding people to officiate games.

In October of 2021, it was reported that a Canada-wide shortage of referees and linesmen forced grassroots hockey organizations to cancel games, and many leagues reduced the number of officials required to work on the ice as the sport grapples with a series of pandemic aftershocks.

Administrators say the challenge extends through small towns and big cities, from youth games to beer leagues. On-ice officials have been subject to the same demographic shifts that have changed elements of life under COVID-19, they say, and there is no easy solution as arenas flickered back to life that winter.

A current statistic has not been provided for the number of recruited and retained officials across sport disciplines in Canada, but many fall programs, like field lacrosse for the SNMLA, are seeing issues.

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