KGUN 9NewsLocal News


"It has no place in our game" Arizona youth sports seeing referee shortage due to abuse

Referee shortage in youth sports
Posted at 7:04 AM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 10:04:03-04

From attacks on the fields to yelling profanity, Arizona youth sports leaders said there's a shortage of referees due to the abuse from parents and coaches. According to Todd Sergi with the Arizona State Referee Administration, there's been a 40% decrease in refs on the soccer field.

"We know that many of the games next year might not be covered," he said. "The challenge is the expectations are just unrealistic and so they feel entitled to say what they want to whomever they want and it’s really inappropriate and has no place in our game at all."

He said about 1000 of the referees are 19 years old or younger.

"They're learning the game too," he said. "Referees are surely going to make mistakes no body is perfect but that doesn't give anyone a right to verbally abuse someone."

Local Tucson referee Alejandro Zamayoa has been on the field since he was six years old.

"I’m out here purely for the love of the game," he said. "I grew up playing at a high level...”

But he said in recent years, the mistreatment of referees is growing particularly with the lower recreation leagues instead of high level club teams.

"It’s been getting a lot worse over the years, especially with the lower leagues especially in Tucson," he said. "The more it is about recreation game and trying to enjoy the game, the abuse gets worse."

In Zamaoya's recent games, he's experienced not only foul language but a player on the losing team kicked a water bottle at his head.

"So I went over there to eject him from the game, the assistant coach approached me in a very aggressive manner that made me fear for my safety and the safety of my crew," he said.

So to respond to parents and coaches during a game, Zamayoa both stops the game and ejects the person from the arena.

"Security had to get called over," he said.

The solution that both Sergi and Zamayoa is more education for parents and coaches.

"I volunteered my services for clubs to hold seminars for parents to give them an understanding from a refs perspective of what we look for,” Zamayoa said.

Sergi urges parents to use ASRA's "Rate a Ref" online form to report anything with which they disagree. He also urges referees to report the abuse on another online form that is found here.

ASRA also launched a referee development program to help referee's grow stronger on the field.

"This program has enabled us to identify and provide a pathway for referee development and have the goal of retaining more referees," he said. "All referees can participate in the on going continuing education that is done online, in person or on demand."


Tina Giuliano is a reporter for KGUN 9. She is a native Arizonan and grew up in Scottsdale. Tina is passionate about storytelling and is excited to work telling Tucson's stories. Share your story ideas and important issues with Tina by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.