SWW Football Officials are Looking for New Members


While many industries have struggled during the past 15 months, one was taking hits long before the pandemic arrived.

The Southwest Washington Football Officials’ Association is seeking referees for the upcoming high school and middle school football seasons.

The association has had a 25% decline in officiating staff over the past five years, said Bob Berg, who heads the association. It has gone from a staff of more than 50 to fewer than 35.

On any given night, the association needs at least 32 officials — and up to 45 on Friday nights.

“The future of having enough qualified officials rests in those folks just out of high school or college getting involved in officiating,” Berg said. “Having said that, any individual is welcome to join our group.”

Magnifying the drop in officials is the fact that the median age of officials is about 55. These officials cover high school and middle school games for 14 school districts in Lewis, Thurston, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties — totalling more than 200 games each year.

In 2019, some officials traveled up to 150 miles to work a single game to ensure that all games were covered.

And even when the association is able to recruit new officials, it has an even harder time keeping them. Its five-year retention rate is at 25%, and its loses five officials for every four it recruits. On average, two leave after one year and one leaves after two or three years.

“Notwithstanding our efforts to recruit graduating high school seniors and college students, we are barely holding our own,” Berg said. “Fortunately, if we can keep an individual for five years, that person will usually stick.”

For anyone interested in becoming an official, Berg said, they will spend about $100 for uniforms and equipment for the first season, and will work 10 to 20 games, earning $350 to $500.

Berg said it helps if a person is in good physical shape, has a basic understanding of the game — former players make excellent officials — and has the personality and temperament to deal with players and coaches.

Games for new officials are usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Training is provided at weekly meetings throughout the season. The first meeting will be on Aug. 17.

Those interested in officiating can contact Bob Berg by phone 360-269-6466 or email swwfoa@comcast.net.