Codes struggling with shortage of match officials

No-one seems to want to blow the whistle.

As community sports gets fully under way, a lack of officials is hampering some of our major sports.

The club rugby season is to begin in Dunedin this Saturday while football has been going for a couple of weeks.

Otago Rugby Referees Association chairman Chris Hart said they were struggling to get enough referees and there could be a shortage of upwards of a dozen referees this weekend.

The association liked to get referees to all 15-a-side games but that may not be possible for all grades.

A new initiative where the premier club team which had the bye supplied referees for the lower grades was helping but there would still be shortages.

The shortage has partly been caused by many tertiary students no longer living in Dunedin. Many had left to go home and carry out distance learning. Some would hopefully get back when the second semester starts at the University of Otago next week.

The recruitment period to get new referees had also been compromised with schools in lockdown and unable to have meetings to teach prospective referees the basics of the game and game management.

Availability would also depend on how many teams would front on Saturday and how many games would be played.

Otago Rugby Football Union referee education officer Tumua Ioane had been working hard to get referees but it was not easy under the present conditions. People had also made work a priority.

Hart said spectators should remember referees were just doing their best and were volunteers. It was a hard job and thankless at times, but referees were an essential part of the game.

Football was also finding it difficult to get referees.

Football South referee development manager Lindsey Robinson said she was always on the lookout for the next group of referees.

But due to the Covid-19 situation and the change in the season there was a struggle to get enough referees and it was a challenging period.

She was finding many people just could not commit to refereeing as they had to work or there were simply other priorities.

Football South was trying hard to get referees and it was a rewarding job to get involved.

Last Saturday, Fletcher Cup games — the grade down from the Southern premier league — did not have a full set of referees and clubs had to provide them.

Robinson said this was disappointing and was caused by a number of referees being unavailable.

She said the new turf at Logan Park had helped as multiple games could be played there throughout the day but Football South did not want referees to be tired out.

Not all grades needed fully qualified referees.

Otago Hockey Association general manager Andy McLean said the association had a loyal band of umpires who worked games throughout the grades. It would always like more.

Umpires officiated in pairs in all games.


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