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'You can't have Friday Night Lights if you don't have officials to work those games' | School football officials deal with critical staffing shortage

The Commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association said some games may have to be played on Thursday or Saturday.

FAUQUIER COUNTY, Va. — High school football as we know it could change as the association charged with putting officials on the field experiences a staffing crisis.

“It's all over the state they're having issues with officials, having officials to work games," Larry Kendrick, the Commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association said.

Kendrick said in his 47 years within the commission he's never seen staffing this low. He said the last five years have been difficult to get new recruits to commit to officiating Friday night lights.

"You can't have Friday Night Lights if you don't have officials to work those games," Kendrick said. "I had to send an email to all the schools this afternoon about how I have 30 ballgames to cover next Friday night and I don't have officials."

Already this season a Fairfax County Public School moved its Friday night game to Thursday.

“We want the kids to be the ones we focus on as far as them getting to play their Friday night games or whatever, but we're just going to have to start moving some games around in order for officials to be there," Kendrick said.

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Kendrick said they're down about 40 officials. 

He said the reason for the shortage is a culmination of things; attrition as people age out, alternate things for people to do on Friday night, lack of interest in younger applicants, intense fans and coaches, and COVID.

“It's been very difficult it's really in the past five years. It started really getting difficult to recruit new officials," Kendrick said.

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Kendrick said if they don't get a renewed interest in the profession, or for some a hobby, it could have detrimental impacts.

"If we don't have officials to work these games a lot of this stuff is going to go by the wayside where we won't have officials to work Friday night," Kendrick said. "We may not have officials, they may have to start canceling football programs in the area or whatever, I don't know. But we are trying everything we can to recruit new people, hopefully, this will help.”

Interested in becoming an official? Here's how to learn more.