BREWER, Maine — High school sports are well into their fall seasons, and while football teams are preparing, those who assign referees are adjusting to deal with shortages.
Maine high school football games are typically played on Fridays and Saturdays, but games have been moved to Thursday nights, as well, to tackle the issue.
"The officials will do anything we can do to help the schools so that these student athletes get the opportunity to play," Maine Principal's Association Commissioner of Officials, Jeff Benson, said.
Allen Snell, Maine Association of Football Officials' secretary of treasurer, said the referee shortage has been a growing issue the past few years as many officials are aging out of the job while not enough young people are looking to be involved.
"It's begun to fall off, and it's falling off even more," Snell said.
There are 77 Maine high school football teams in May, with 38 games every week, according to Snell.
He said it's ideal that each game has five referees, which would require 190 officials on the field, plus officials to run the time clock.
Right now, he said, there are about 200 total officials statewide, but 15 or so strictly run the time clock due to age, leaving less than what is expected to run a game with five referees. In any given week, Snell said, they could be down 30 refs based on their availability.
"Sometimes we just have to use four officials instead of five," Andy Constantine said.
Constantine has been a referee for 48 years, and he's still with it, despite trying to retire the past five years.
His love for the game and wanting the student athletes to have the opportunity to play keeps him involved.
"I like to make sure we have the games covered for the kids," Constantine said.
Referee shortages is an issue with most sports, especially football and soccer, according to Benson. However, volleyball officials have actually increased.
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