The Effects: Referee shortages across AL & GA

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Happening across the country, local sports teams are experiencing a shortage of referees. Here at home, both Alabama and Georgia are feeling the effects.

There are many factors contributing to the shortage of referees including the pandemic, money and poor spectator behavior.

News Leader 9′s Ashlee Williams spoke with Richard Bryant who has owned a referee organization for years. He said this is a big problem in the Fountain City.

“A lot of them will move games around to accommodate for the shortage of umpires, but we don’t want them to do that,” Bryant said.

Bryant has worked on the baseball field for decades. As the former district administrator of referees in Georgia, he was in charge of baseball leagues in Columbus all the way down to the Florida line.

Bryant recently retired from that position, focusing his attention now on his umpire association serving Columbus.

He explained being a ref can be a tough job, but above all else, it is rewarding.

“When my umpires train, they don’t get paid, so he didn’t get paid for nothing,” Bryant said. “He had one incident when the parents got on him, and he called the other umpire up and they discussed it, and finally the president of that league came out and got all over the parents. That calmed everything down and they continued.”

Ernie Yarbrough with the Georgia High School Association said nationally, they’re losing referees at a high and fast rate. The country is short more than 50-thousand referees compared to the year before. He said during the pandemic, a lot of the older refs stepped down, and never came back.

“If we’re not able to increase that number of new officials then keep them when they get in, there’s going to be a chance if not games being rescheduled or cancelled, what will happen is some of the sub-varsity levels won’t be able to fill teams because there just won’t be officials to even do the sub-varsity games,” Yarbrough said.

This also rings true in the Yellow Hammer state. The Alabama High School Association reports right now, the organization has less than seven thousand officials, but the goal is to have ten thousand on hand.

“I enjoy being around the kids and umpiring, and giving them the best game I could,” Bryant expressed. The main thing with umpiring is knowing your rules and regulations. As long as you follow those, you shouldn’t have any problems.”

Bryant encourages anyone interested in becoming a ref to contact him at (706) 718-0035.