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“They’re not yelling at you. They’re yelling at your shirt”

By SIRC, 03/15/23, 10:30AM EDT


Canadian sport system faces officiating crisis


  • The Canadian sport system is experiencing a steep decline in number of match officials due to a combination of factors including abuse, lack of support from organizations, and lack of compensation 
  • In this article, officials from various sports across the country share their perspectives on the officiating crisis, including potential solutions such as education programs for parents and spectators, signage, and mentorship programs for officials 
  • Parents in particular play a key role in modelling appropriate sideline behaviour, but are often part of the problem 

“They’re not yelling at you. They’re yelling at your shirt,” is the refrain that Nicole Pagliaro, a Harassment Officer for the Huronia District Soccer Association, repeats to her young referees, so that they’re armed with mental defenses for dealing with abuse. 

But fewer officials young and old are feeling like the positives of the job are worth the abuse and stressful environment. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the decline in officiating numbers. Now sports across Canada are facing an officiating crisis. 

The match official shortage was frequently brought up during the Canadian Sport Policy renewal process as an urgent situation that requires the coordinated response of the entire sector. This article provides an overview of the cultural context of the officiating shortage in Canada and highlights the voices of match officials from across the nation.