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Dramatic decline in referees prompts statewide call to action

KING-TV Seattle logo KING-TV Seattle 2/3/2020 Angela Russell
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Sports officials throughout Washington state are asking for help.

The Puget Sound region in particular is dealing with a shortage of people to referee games.

In the last decade, Washington's population has grown by 700,000 people. It means more sports leagues, schools, and teams. Yet, the number of people to officiate those games continues to decline.

Softball has taken the hardest hit with a nearly 30% drop in umpires the last 10 years. Baseball saw a 23% decline, followed by huge declines in wrestling, gymnastics and football.

Brian Rooney, an umpire, and football official Dean Corcoran want to see a change. They point out people used to start officiating in their 20s. The average age for people to start is now in their 40s.

There's also the issue of how officials are treated, especially at certain levels. A national survey revealed the biggest problems aren't in high school or in recreational leagues, but in youth sports. Nearly 40% of the people who took the survey say parents are the biggest problem.

The national survey of more than 17,000 officials also revealed at least 40% felt unsafe at some point. 

The officials interviewed admit it's not a role for everyone, but they want people to know it's rewarding.

Various organizations are actively recruiting, including the Northwest Baseball Umpires Association and Washington Officials Association

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