Referee shortage cause for concern ahead of high school football season in Kansas

Across the nation, making sure there are enough officials to cover games has become more of a challenge each year. Kansas is no exception.
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With Friday night football games staring in a few weeks in towns across Kansas, some schools are having to change their schedules or miss a game entirely due to a referee shortage. Eyewitness News spoke with a member of the Greater Wichita Officials Association who says this is the worst he’s seen in his 19 years in the profession.

Across the nation, making sure there are enough officials to cover games has become more of a challenge each year. Kansas is no exception.

“It’s at a point that we’re really out of people,” said Greater Wichita Officials Association Director of Officials Keith Kenley.

Kenley said this year’s lack of officials is unlike any season he’s seen.

He said it’s upsetting to see the lack of interest in the profession, but can identify a multitude of reasons for the shortage including treatment from fans, long hours and lack of pay.

“Yeah, we don’t make a whole lot on Friday nights, Monday night, Saturday mornings. It’s really for the love of the game and or the love of the student athlete but at some point, somewhere, the money’s gonna have to make up,” Kenley said. “Gas prices really takes into that game check and it really hurts sometimes to have to drive out there, just do it for the love of the game.”

The referee shortage impacts officials in place who now will have to take on double the work to fill vacant positions, Kenley said. He said this could significantly impact games at the middle school and high school levels.

To avoid the issue worsening, Kenley encourages anyone with a love for sports to give the officiating profession a try.