COVID-19, crowd conduct and cheap compensation leads to shortage of referees across the nation including Connecticut

Referees quit the profession due to a variety of reasons. Covid-19, verbal abuse, and inadequate pay leads to 70% of referees quitting within the first three years of having the job.

Graphic created by Poppy Harrington ’25

Referees quit the profession due to a variety of reasons. Covid-19, verbal abuse, and inadequate pay leads to 70% of referees quitting within the first three years of having the job.

Elementary and high schools across America are becoming more interested in sports, but there are fewer referees because of a number of variables that make the job undesirable. Due to a lack of officials, games have been canceled and have had inaccurate outcomes since inexperienced officials filled in for those who had previously resigned.

Currently, Staples High School is struggling with finding officials to referee basketball games, for both boys and girls teams. 

The average age for high school officials is pretty high and not many younger candidates are going into the profession,” Staples freshman girls’ basketball coach Donny Smith said, “The new/younger group is only averaging staying on the job for three years with the main reason for them leaving being abusive parents and coaches.” 

According to The New York Times, 70% of referees quit within three years of starting. 

Reffing games requires being in close proximity to both parents and players, increasing the likelihood of getting sick—something that many people are trying to avoid. 

According to The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the pandemic has reduced the number of American officials from 240,000 to 200,000. 

Being a referee may involve facing criticism from players, coaches, and spectators. Making an incorrect call can spark debate and conflict among the referees and other participants. Being surrounded by verbal abuse and receiving unwarranted hatred can be distressing and frustrating. According to Officially Human, “60% [of former referees] said that their top reason for quitting is the verbal abuse they take from parents and fans.”

Currently, Staples High School is struggling with finding officials to referee basketball games, for both boys and girls teams. ”

— Poppy Harrington '25

Although it is typically not a full-time profession, particularly for youth and high school authorities, refereeing can be a significant commitment. According to Officially Human, 22% of referees and officials quit due to low income. The low-paying work often isn’t worth it due to the danger of COVID-19 and the criticism from surrounding spectators.