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Arizona leaders say parents abusing referees leading to shortage

State leaders say parents are getting more aggresive toward referees during youth and high school sports games.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 9:43 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Fist fights and attacks on the field. State leaders say parents are acting out, and it’s leading to a referee shortage. Some parents and coaches can be seen on video getting aggressive and physical with referees during youth and teen sports games.

“Parents are more vocal, definitely verbally abusive, sexist racist remarks to our referees, they feel entitled to assert themselves,” said Todd Sergi with the Arizona State Referee Administration, a committee for soccer referees.

Sergi said it is getting out of hand, and many refs are calling it quits. According to the AIA, nationally, more than 50,000 game officials have left their jobs over the last three years. “Just with the amount of growth, with the amount of league growth, we can’t cover all the matches,” said Sergi.

This week, the National Federation of State High School Associations held a meeting to address this issue. They want to recruit and keep more officials in the game. “We are still hearing horrific examples of officials being assaulted,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, CEO of NFHS.

Sergi said many refs here in Arizona are 19 or younger. He points to one incident where a parent berated a teen girl officiating. “To watch the video and to hear the parents, to see the director of coaching come on the field and belittle her and accuse her of being incapable of doing the match and not being qualified, watch her break down in tears in this field. It really was heartbreaking,” said Sergi.

ASRA created an online system where anyone can report abuse they see. As a result, many are calling for more accountability and increasing penalties for players and coaches.