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Shortage of Game Officials Forces High Schools to Shift Football Games on Thursday Rather Than a Peaceful Friday Night

Published 09/22/2023, 1:36 PM EDT

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Under the dazzling night lights, Medford, Massachusetts, celebrated the quintessential football experience – complete with cheerleaders, a spirited band, and dedicated players. However, this particular varsity game had an unconventional twist; it was scheduled for a Thursday evening. This unusual choice was not a matter of preference but rather a necessity driven by circumstances.

The circumstances are the shortage of game officials which is forcing Medford to shift their games to a Thursday night rather than a crisp Friday evening.

Football games shifted to Thursday nights

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Richard Pearson, the associate director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, shed light on the issue. He revealed that the number of officials available had decreased by a significant 1,000 from its pre-pandemic high of 5,800. This shortage has created logistical challenges not only for the MIAA but also for athletic directors statewide.

One of the primary causes behind this shortage, as per Pearson, is early retirements prompted by the pandemic. However, the most significant challenges stem from incidents of unruly behavior exhibited by parents and fans. These regrettable instances have escalated to fights, verbal abuse, and, in some alarming cases, physical assaults on referees.

Jack Walsh, a veteran high school football referee with 35 years of experience,  passionately spoke about his love for officiating football games.

A referee perspective

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Pearson acknowledged the difficulties in recruiting new officials, as recent college graduates may be discouraged due to financial considerations, especially when some games require substantial travel

Jack Walsh, a dedicated high school football referee of 35 years, also emphasized the impact of fan and parent misconduct, saying, “We have seen legal cases arising from abuse by fans, parents, and various incidents of that nature. It is challenging to attract individuals to officiate the game  under these circumstances.”

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The MIAA is actively engaged in a significant recruitment effort, recognizing that the shortage of officials affects every sport. Their hope is to rejuvenate the referee community. It is to ensure that high school sports can continue to flourish in a fair and well-officiated environment. This endeavor aims to guarantee that the spirit of high school athletics remains undiminished, even in the face of these challenges. There is a hope of stands being full even on thursdays.

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Written by:

Naman Singh

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Naman Singh is a writer at EssentiallySports who covers Sports Viral Moments. His arsenal is well-rounded and he surely knows how to keep the readers engaged. Naman is interested in covering live events, as well as the off-court drama that comes with it.
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Priyadarshini Ajay