PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Referees and officials of all sports in the panhandle are struggling as there has been a nationwide shortage working for amateur sporting events.

Panhandle and Bay County area Official Assigner, Nate Starr says it has not only affected how games are officiated but also given extensive hours and a heavy load for the short staff to bare.

“Usually right now my time of the year is I like to dwindle down because I have already worked over a hundred games this year,” Starr said. And I like to take my time and take a break and spend time with my wife and kids and father but I still have to work everyday because we just don’t have enough bodies to cover all of the stuff we have to cover.”

This shortage began last year in the midst of the pandemic and has seemed to carry over with no end in sight, but now that COVID-19 is no longer receiving the majority of the blame, it’s coming down to people not wanting to work.

“A lot of it, we want to blame the parents, but a lot of it is the time and effort,” Starr said. “We all see it nowadays, a lot of these people just don’t want to work this stuff, they just want to go work a job where they’re not going to get yelled at, they’re not going to get told they’re wrong and they want cash, and that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen is if you start throwing cash in peoples faces or start giving cash out, they’ll start coming.”

The FHSAA is laying out incentives to attempt to fix the issue and their main course of action is an increase in pay for referees across all sports.

“Four or five hours for 140 bucks, I mean you ain’t gonna make that at McDonalds,” Starr said. “I mean you get paid pretty good and its fun it is something to give back to the game and I mean it has brought me travels and I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over and see some beautiful places and meet some really famous people and it is just good to give back to the game that gave so much to me growing up.”

For those who choose to get involved with officiating at a local level, there’s no limit to how high the career can go.

“We have connections to get you to the next level, we’ve had guys you know go all the way up to major leagues, we’ve had guys work division two basketball tournaments, division one stuff, we’ve had a local guy work two division one regionals, so the connections are out there to get you to where you wanna go.”

To learn more about the referee shortage in the Panhandle, or for information regarding how to join the FHSAA officiating staff, email Nate Starr at