We have a referee shortage.
3 Reasons for the Referee Shortage
1. Referees did not return after COVID. We had an aging referee population and some decided the risk vs benefit was not the right balance.
There are fewer younger referees. Referees can be certified in the year of their 14th birthday. Younger referees are an important part of the soccer ecosystem. Often handfuls of 13-15 year olds are certified each year. These younger officials take on U6-U9 games in recreationals and lower level club leagues. They fill in during tournaments and can be great ARs.
In the first 12 months of COVID virtual referee courses were made available but the assignments were minimal and the demand for courses was small. At the same time, current teenage referees were growing up;17 year olds turned into 18 year olds, they graduated and went to college leaving a gap in referee certification.
2. The game has grown. Blame it on the USWNT, blame it on the Hell is Real rivalry or you could even blame it on Ted Lasso but the fact of the matter is the game is taking off.
For televised games viewership has grown by nearly 30% since 2019 and for youth soccer participation we are seeing reports of 10-15% participation growth. Add in the fact that we have more leagues, more tournaments and of course more teams a shrinking referee work force paired with more demand means we have a referee shortage!
3. Referees are abused and disrespected. I don't think I need to explain this. You know its true. You do it. I do it. It has to stop.
We have to stop making our own calls from the sideline. We have to stop berating the referees and demanding a response. We have to stop being a bad example for our kids.