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High school sports facing a shortage of officials

Newswatch 16's Courtney Harrison spoke with an official in Lackawanna County about what is causing the shortage.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — As high school sports resumed after the pandemic, many of the officials and referees did not.

Jim Elliott, the District 2 officials' representative, says it's been hard to retain officials and recruit new ones to cover all the games on the schedule.

"We had guys that would pass the test on a Monday, and they would be on the field Friday. Basketball, we had varsity officials for the first time doing JV games to cover the JV games. And baseball, we're going through this now where there's not enough officials period in order to cover all the games," Elliott said.

Elliott says the hardest part is finding someone who wants to be an official and who can fit it into their work schedule.

"Most of the games start at 4:30 p.m. So people have to leave their jobs at like 3 o'clock, where they're going to leave their jobs where they're making a considerable amount of money to go officiate a game where they're going to get 60 bucks or 70 bucks. It's not conducive to that."

As the cost of living increases, Elliott says the officials are not being compensated fairly by school districts.

"We have basically continued to officiate in baseball, softball, without a contract. And we're going to continue to do that because we don't want to let the student-athletes lose another season. They already lost one two years ago. We don't want to let them lose another season. But at some point, it's only fair to have adults sit down at a table and just iron out any issues that they have. And that's all we're asking for. It's just an opportunity to talk about the issues in regard to fees."

PIAA referees and officials from District 2 are scheduled to meet with school districts next week to discuss an increase in pay.

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