Football is back, but the referees are not.
The BC Football Officials Association is short staffed and scrambling to keep both high school and community football alive this season.
“We’ve lost five senior officials in the last year, and that makes a huge difference because only about 12 of these guys can do senior varsity and senior varsity takes five officials at a time," said Kevin Rowe, BCFOA referee.
"The bottom line is football requires more officials than any other sport. Softball you can use one, basketball you can use a couple. In this situation with so much activity and the risks for children, we can’t run a game without enough guys watching it. We won’t do it and nor will they.”
Being heavily involved in high school football as the head coach of the Mount Boucherie Bears Junior Varsity team, Jason Hudson knows just how important getting involved in sports can be for young kids.
“Some of these kids, the only reason why they’re able to be in school is sports. Sports are everything to them. They come to school because they know after school they get to come out onto that field and be a part of this team," said Hudson.
"Without that, there’s a lot of kids we might lose. Not only just within sports, but within school systems as well. It is a very important part of growth for young kids, to learn that team mentality, how to be trusted by other people, it builds employment skills, it is one of the most important pieces for a youth.”
As the BCFOA has lost almost a third of its staff over the pandemic, the association is pushing for parents, spectators and fans to come out and give refereeing a real shot.
“As we’re seeing a shortage of officials, we’ve got about 21 in the Interior from Kamloops to Kelowna, covering everything from Vernon to Salmon Arm as well. Essentially with that shortage, if even one parent came from every team that we look after, it would make a huge difference in the number that we have to be able to get all these games done in a short amount of time," explained Rowe.
If you’re interested in becoming a football referee, you can visit the BCFOA website to sign up and get involved.