RICHMOND, Va. -- The 2022 high school football season in Central Virginia won’t begin for another four months, but it is setting up to be unlike any other in recent history.
Friday nights in the fall have become sacred for high school football fans, but to see their favorite team this year, they may have to pick another night.
Because of a lack of football officials, games may be moved to Thursdays or Saturdays to ensure there are enough officials to adequately cover each game.
“We’ve always had close to enough people [to officiate games],” said Danny Denton, a recruiter for the Central Virginia Football Officials Association (CVFOA). “But never have we had to move a lot of games to Thursday nights. Never.”
To properly officiate a high school varsity game, there should be at least seven officials on the field. A referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, back judge, side judge and field judge.
Because of a reduced number of officials, some games are being officiated with only six or five officials per game.
The CVFOA covers games from the Northern Neck, through Central Virginia, to Emporia and out to Amelia County.
On Friday nights, there are an average of 35 games scheduled. At seven officials per game, that comes out to 245 officials. The CVFOA currently has about 150 active officials.
“We don’t have enough officials for Friday night games,” Denton admitted.
When the CVFOA met with athletic directors in January, they were warned that games would have to be moved to Thursdays or Saturdays if the official numbers didn’t improve.
“We’re not happy about it. [Athletic Directors] aren’t happy about it” Denton said. “They’re going to lose a lot of their gate [ticket revenue] on Friday night.”
“I’m hoping the economic loss is not too harsh on my budget,” said Manchester athletic director Greg Woodle. “Football ticket sales are a large part of it.”
Woodle confirmed that the Lancers have already moved their Senior Night game against Huguenot later this fall to a Thursday night because of an official shortage.
Other schools have experienced similar issues with scheduling but some, such as Thomas Dale, have escaped having to move off their traditional Friday night dates. Moving to Saturdays is an even less desirable option, with competition from college games and an estimated 10 to 15% of high school officials who also work those college games.
There is a trickle-down effect also for JV and rec league games which use the same officials and may have to be moved to Monday and Tuesday nights.
“We might be playing games every night of the week,” Denton said.
The CVFOA is actively recruiting new officials and will be holding an information session Saturday, May 7 at Varina High School beginning at 9:30 a.m. Training starts on June 14 and runs right up to the beginning of the fall season. Officials make $90 per game at the varsity level, $70 at the JV level and about $50 for youth league games on Saturdays.
For more information, log onto www.cvfoa.org.