Apr 28, 2023 - News

Unruly fans lead to shortage of sports officials

Illustration of a child making the time out sign with her hands.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Charges have been filed against a local adult league softball player in connection with the recent assault of an umpire — yet another example of the abuse increasingly making sports officials quit.

Why it matters: Poor behavior from spectators and participants is a major reason for the shortage of athletics officials among a variety of sports at all age levels.

State of play: The scarcity is especially felt in high school sports, which lost around 50,000 officials nationwide from 2018-2022.

What they're saying: "The number of people who are willing to work and officiate with bad fan behavior, that number is declining," OHSAA spokesperson Tim Stried told WTVG-TV in Toledo.

  • "A lot of people don’t want to put up with that for the money they get for working a game."

Threat level: Even in casual rec games, there's no shortage of vitriol toward those making the calls.

What we're watching: Reps. Joe Miller(D-Amherst) and Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), a longtime basketball referee and a coach, respectively, have repeatedly sought to increase assault penalties for those who attack sports officials.

  • Their bill was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives in 2020, but the Ohio Senate declined to take it up that year.
  • They are trying again this term.

The intrigue: A New Jersey Little League is requiring spectators who confront officials to umpire three games themselves before they're allowed back to watch, Kendall Baker writes for Axios Sports.

💭 Tyler's thought bubble: I spent many years as a youth rec league administrator and umpire in my hometown.

  • The vast majority of parents were great, but it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the experience for everybody.
  • I don't often say this, but New Jersey has it right a little humility would do some people a whole lot of good.

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