Rethinking the Responsibility of Officiating

By Damian Anderson

Rethinking the Responsibility of Officiating

The shortage in the number of officials is historically a problem of the local referee or umpire association. Struggling to attract new officials means placing additional strain on the existing, often aging, cohort of officials. Coupling this with the ongoing issue of abuse sees the number of officials in decline across the globe. A problem compounded when junior and youth sports participation numbers are at an all time high.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in those community competitions that have restarted, we have observed 20% less officials registered than the previous season. Couple this with the already insufficient numbers of officials, sports need to drastically change the way they think and prioritize officiating.

It’s time to do things differently to ensure matches can continue to be played at community or amateur level. One successful model is the ‘Shared-Responsibility’ (SR) model that has been implemented by a number of major sports. While a model where the responsibility of officiating is shared across the entire sport (administrators, coaches, players and officials) sounds daunting, it can be done – and highly successfully. I’ve led the implementation of the model at both state and national sporting organization level. The model is founded on a simple philosophy – normalizing officiating. I have seen the model double the number of officials in just a few years. It is a game changer.

The model requires sports administrators, clubs and officiating bodies to work toward a common goal of helping recruit new officials. Mechanisms are put in place to help clubs contribute to the pool of available officials. While it focuses on the recruitment of officials from within their own club networks, this has a positive flow on effect to match day environment and ultimately retention of officials.

Not only does it increase the number of younger officials, it improves the match day environment as clubs become invested in officiating. They (clubs) have assisted in recruiting these new officials and then see first-hand the benefits both playing and officiating brings.

Damian Anderson is a founder and Director of Officiency Sport, which offers expert consultancy in all aspects of sports officiating (non-technical) and officiating development better practice including strategy, governance, financial, resourcing, operations, growth/recruitment, coaching, feedback systems, environment/retention, learning & development.

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