Last week, we reported Antonio Vitale of Alliance, Ohio was the Youngest Referee in the United States. This generated a lot of comments from referees who started at age 9 or 10, lessening the credibility of Ohio’s Beacon Journal report.
With the criticism comes a report from Indiana where the Indiana Soccer Referee Committee no longer allows children under the age of 14 to work as paid referees. The US Soccer Federation’s official policy allows children 12 and older to officiate. Samir Yasa, Indiana’s Referee Administrator, says the policy has always remained the same:
“In the past 40 some years, not just in Indiana but throughout the country, the Federation which is the governing body, has said that 12 years old is the age at which a child can start refereeing.”
The Indiana Department of Labor made the Soccer Referee Committee change its policy on the age of referees with this response from the Indiana Statute:
“A child less than 14 years of age may not be employed or allowed to work in any gainful occupation except as a farm laborer, domestic service worker, caddie for persons playing the game of golf, or newspaper carrier.”
The re-affirmation of this statute now terminates the early referee careers of many 12 and 13-year olds that already began training for this year’s soccer season.
Here is the letter sent to youth referees under the age of 14 in Indiana:
The below language was included in an e-mail to all the referees that are under the age of 14
We have some disappointing news to pass along that will affect your ability to referee in 2012.
Recently, a parent inquired of what age a child should be to participate as a referee. The USSF and SRC age to referee has always been 12 years old. However, just recently and after the recertification process was concluded, a parent who initially inquired about the age limit was advised by the Department of Labor (DOL), that no child under the age of 14 may work. The DOL concluded that work includes being a soccer referee.
There are exceptions of course, such as a child under the age of 14 may deliver newspapers, babysit, work at a farm with his parents, be an actor, etc.; however, soccer refereeing is not one of acceptable areas of work for a child under the age of 14.
This issue is related to “employment”. It is our opinion that referees are independent contractors. However, the DOL explained that what referees are doing is still work as it relates to minors.
With the deepest regrets, all referees who are not 14 years old will not be assigned games as referees until you reach the age of 14. As we enforce the Laws of The Games, the State Referee Committee must follow the Federal and State laws as well. If we do not, there may be monetary penalties for violating this law.
Although this is an unfortunate issue, we have been working with Indiana Soccer and attorneys to see if we can find a short-term resolution. We have also contacted two Senators and a representative and proposed a bill that would allow kids starting at the age of 12 to referee sports. A courageous young referee, Matthew Burkart from Evansville Indiana, who is 12 years old, was able to get help and contacted a Senator with a proposed bill called the “Matthew Bill” that will include sports officiating as part of the work 12 year olds can do without violating the Child Labor Laws. We encourage you to contact your Senators and Representatives and do the same. The more they hear from you, the faster we can get the law changed.
We are still working with some attorneys to see if we can draft something that would be acceptable to the DOL. Please understand, we met with the DOL and they were very understanding and positive about the young referees participation, the training and the mentoring program that we have in place and the safety we provide; however, the DOL is bound by the law and are unable to change what Congress or the Indiana law makes made into law.
For now and as of today, you will not be able to referee or receive any game assignments until you reach the age of 14.
As to a refund of your registration: If you attended an Entry Level clinic and have not refereed at all since you became a referee, you will be refunded $50. If you are a returning referee and recertified for the 2012 year and you will not be 14 prior to the fall season, you will be refunded $40.
You also have an option, you can elect not to get a refund and recertify when you become 14 and your credit will be applied to the next recertification when you are 14. It is your option.
Source: Indiana Public Media & many emails…