Toxic fans may explain California's high school referee shortage: report

Seems that juvenile adults are causing toxic environments for their kids with hooligan antics.

Indeed, parents and coaches lacking sportsmanship and civility may be to blame for a growing shortage of high school referees in California, according to reports.

“Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the primary reason California has an alarming shortage of high school officials,” Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, wrote in a column posted by the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body of high school sports.

Eighty percent of officials quit after two years, according to the National Association of Sports Officials, and 75 percent of officials said it’s because of the hostile behaviors of adults at games.

As The Modesto Bee reported, it didn’t matter what sport was involved, be it volleyball or soccer.

“I had a coach challenge me on a court and challenge me after the game,” said Jeff Spinelli, a basketball referee for 13 years until he quit this year. “He told me he was going to quit coaching to beat up officials he didn’t like. I called him for a technical foul and he almost incited a riot by his actions and not one person in the entire gym said anything to him or did anything.”

“Fans have come out onto the field and threatened saying, ‘Let’s go to the parking lot and we can handle it’,” added Modesto’s William Franklin, who has been a soccer referee for 16 years and faced numerous threats against him. “Two years ago, I was working a game and the cops came out because we had a coach and a parent wait for us after the game.”

Roger Blake, executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, who co-wrote the column with Niehoff, said it didn’t even matter the grade year or level of the students playing the games, and the disharmony is causing referees to know it’s not worth the hassles.

“They are getting paid $35 for a freshman baseball game,” he said. “Why would I want to do that?”

There is no solution yet, but there haven’t been any discussion for games with no fans in attendance.

“We hope it never gets to that point,” Blake said.