“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.