With gas prices near $4/gallon in many places, the cost of driving even short distances is starting to be measured in dollars, not cents. Just driving to and from practices can start to add up for many coaches and families. But one other group is starting to feel the pinch – referees. With gas prices where they are, it’s costing anywhere from 16 to 27 cents per mile for your average vehicle. Hybrids might be around 10 cents, but they’re an exception (for now).

So picking a middle number, let’s assume the average referee is paying 20 cents a mile in gas alone. Driving 10-15 miles to your local soccer complex is costing you $4-$6 round trip. If you’re working a tournament in a nearby city, you could be paying around $12 to $25 round trip for an event 30 to 60 miles away.

I’m sure the pay scales vary a fair amount for referees, but here is what referees get paid in North Carolina. These are maximum fees per game for center referees and assistant referees, but most clubs pay the maximum:

Age Level Recreation Challenge Classic
U12 and below $24/$12 $28/$15 $32/$18
U13-U14 $28/$19 $32/$21 $38/$23
U15-U16 $32/$21 $38/$23 $44/$29
U17 and above $38/$23 $44/$29 $50/$35

As you can see, there is a large disparity between centering a U17 Classic match and a U12 Recreation match. But they all need officials, including assistant referees (AR’s). AR’s from out of town would have to work about one match just to pay for gas. What if a league has a makeup Challenge match and can’t find a local referee? Is it going to be worth it to spend $10-$15 in gas round trip to earn $15-$44?

Granted, most referee assignors try to arrange things so officials have a nice slate of matches on a given day. Work 3-4 matches and you’re likely earning enough to still make it worth your while, though you’ll still see a bigger chunk lost to gasoline. But for rural areas with small referee pools, tournaments, and situations where crews are needed for only one or two matches, especially AR’s, the officials may start thinking twice about accepting assignments because the gas to get there, even locally, will take a bigger chunk out of what they earn.

Clearly the pressure is there. While most referees do what they do for the love of the game, and not just the money earned, the ever increasing bite of fuel costs has to be concerning to officials. Are any state associations raising referee fees? Are leagues working in small fee increases in anticipation of higher referee fees? Are assignors finding it harder to fill in small holes in their schedules? What are you seeing in your neck of the woods?