Shortage of referees forcing school district to move football games to Thursday

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 1:42 PM CDT
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BOSTON, Ma. (WBZ) – A shortage of referees has forced several high schools in Massachusetts to move the traditional Friday night football games to Thursdays.

Richard Pearson with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said the organization has lost 1,000 officials since the pandemic, down from 5,800.

The loss has created a logistical nightmare for athletic directors trying to get games covered.

Medford is just one city that found a solution by moving the games to Thursday.

“I think it impacts the fans showing up. The stands seem a little light with the games on a Thursday,” Medford resident Mike Ghene said.

While early retirement during the pandemic and mediocre pay contribute to the shortage, many referees said poor parent and fan behavior have pushed several of them out of the game.

“I like being around here. It’s fun. It’s a really fun sport to officiate,” said Jack Walsh, who has been a high school football referee for 35 years.

Walsh said he’s seen it all and admits cases of parents behaving badly start to add up.

“We have some court cases with some of the abuse things from parents, fans and different things like that,” Walsh said. “And it is tough to get people to come out here to officiate the game because of that.”

The MIAA said this shortage is hitting all sports, not just football. They have a massive recruiting effort underway to add to the ranks.