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Perris AYSO - Region 544

Why We Don't Pay Volunteers, Specifically Referees

Why can’t we pay referees?

As a volunteer organization, we are protected from civil liability from the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.  Paid employees are not covered by the VPA, and we live in a litigious society. We can't open our region to this risk. The following explains what happens if we pay referees and how our region has established an incentive program to comply with local, state, and federal laws and National AYSO policies.

Can we pay referees?

Most people would rather increase the registration fee a small amount to avoid volunteering. There are several problems with this idea such as:

·          Paying people to become referees and doing games doesn’t work (see further below).

·          Referees must belong to an association and the Region would have to hire the association to provide services. AYSO Regions cannot own
and operate a company or association – it can only contract for those services with an outside company.

·          The cost is a lot more than most people realize and the increase makes it harder for many people to afford their child’s participation in AYSO.

Why paying people doesn’t work

The offer to pay people to referee is not enough of a temptation to motivate them to go through the training and step onto the field for the first time. However, most people would still rather pay someone else than to be the one to referee.

A poll was conducted a few years ago to find out where referees started out and why they started refereeing. All three (3) organizations indicate that 90% or more of the referees in their association started out as an AYSO volunteer referee and they started refereeing because there were not enough referees to do all of the games.

Of the 10% not from AYSO, most were youth looking for a source of income before they were 15 or 16 years old.

If AYSO stopped motivating and training new volunteers to step on to the field and do a few games, then the pool of referees would decrease at a faster rate than it already is. We have already crossed the tipping point where there aren't enough properly certified and authorized referees in AYSO and other US Youth Soccer recreational or competitive club programs to cover games. AYSO and US Youth Soccer need to find ways to fill the top of the funnel.

The truth

Telling people the truth is the only way to force them to look in the mirror to find the person who is going to step up and coach a team or referee. And the truth is simple:

·  The Article Two, Section 2.5 of the National Policy Statements (see below) state the reasons why AYSO only allows volunteers. 

·     The National Policy Statements also state that every game - starting at U7/U8 - must have a certified, authorized official or referee where:

o    "Authorized" means the individual has been registered as a volunteer in the current Membership Year and passed the background check.

o    "Certified means they have completed the appropriate training to referee the match including completing AYSO Safe Haven and 
CDC Concussion training. 

·       If we don’t have a referee for a game, then our region’s Referee Contingency is to have the home more experienced coach ref the game. This 
only puts more responsibility on the coach who has already volunteered much of their time. If no one is willing to referee, then the game will be 
cancelled and not be rescheduled. 

·     The decline of available, certified referees as your child gets older is very quick. We estimate one in four referees who did games in U8 will still 
be active in U10. One in four of those referees will still be an active referee when your child is in the U12 division. One out of four of those 
referees might obtain enough training to be an active referee when your child is in the U14/15 division. If you need to add 3 referees by the time 
your child reaches the U14/15 division, then you need to start out with 192 referees (which becomes 48 at U10, 12 at U12 and 3 at U14). You 
and everyone else in the Under-8 divisions need a lot of people to step up and to continue stepping up as your child - and their friends - get 
older and continue playing AYSO soccer.

Consequently, the truth is you - the person reading this webpage - need to decide whether or not you want to be the one to referee, the one to coach or the one to help with the Region's operations? Everyone should decide to help the Region with one of these three important areas to ensure your child - and every child in AYSO Region 239 - can experience one of the best youth sports programs available.

Paying Volunteers

AYSO has maintained throughout its existence a total volunteer concept of operation (except for its national staff) including without limitation, all aspects of coaching, officiating and local administration. This means that the Regional Commissioner, Regional Referee Admin, Registrar, Treasurer, and Division Coordinators do not get paid. They have volunteered to serve in these roles because they want to ensure the success of our program, give back to the program, and love working with our youth and making a difference in their lives. Countless Regions across the country provide a successful and enjoyable soccer experience through such total volunteer efforts. Nevertheless, AYSO recognizes that the pressures of day-to-day life compete for the valuable volunteer time and sometimes makes it difficult to provide a quality soccer program solely with volunteers. However, various federal and state tax and labor laws apply when payment is provided for services which, if ignored, may incur significant liability for the AYSO organization and personal liability for the executive member and/or board members who approve or condone such payments. Such liability is not covered in the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 for these volunteers. It is the purpose of this policy statement, therefore, to reinforce AYSO’s all volunteer concept but to provide a protocol for a Region to follow when it is felt that it must pay for certain services.

Referee Incentives

To better promote and show our APPRECIATION to our referees, we have developed a referee incentive program through the guidance and oversight of the national office, section, area, and regional executive members. We have carefully outlined an incentive program to “REWARD” our referees, not pay them. Through use of a point system for CORE games and randomization of rewards for EXTRA, we our doing our best to create a quality referee program and still comply with local and federal laws and national policy.

The National Office has prepared guidelines for regions to use, which have been approved by the AYSO National Board of Directors (NBOD) for distribution. Regions contemplating incentives for referee services must consult these guidelines first. No payment may be made by a Region to anyone for services commonly provided by volunteers that is not in strict compliance with those guidelines. Failure to comply with these guidelines when paying for services may result in the suspension or removal of the person(s) responsible and could result in the revocation of the Region’s Charter.Executive members and Regions, Areas, Sections or Tournaments engaging in practices that are not in compliance with the guidelines must understand that doing so could expose them to personal liability in any legal action arising from any payment for services.

Referee Incentive Maximums: It is for this reason that we much cap all incentives to referees at $300 for fall and $300 for spring or $600 total for the year.

How much more would it cost to utilize a referee association?

The following table shows a typical association fee per game structure and how this breaks down into an increase of about $55-60 per player. Furthermore, the Region would have to eliminate scholarships and registration discounts to cover the additional cost.

Note that referees must pay an annual fee to the association and the league. These typically add up to about $100/year. Referees must also complete background checks and get fingerprinted.

Typically 3-person referee teams earn the following: Referee earns $0.67/minute and each Assistant Referee earns $0.50/minute. Plus, the association and assignor get another 10% of the fee to cover operating expenses, pay to assignors, and business licenses/insurance.

In conclusion, every player's registration fee would need to go up $50-60. If we take into account scholarships and registration discounts, then the increase is closer to $70/player registration cost increase per season.

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Perris AYSO - Region 544

P.O. Box 463 
Perris, California 92572

Email Us: [email protected]
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