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Cabrillo Lacrosse Lakewood Long Beach Poly Millikan Wilson

Local CIF Boys’ Lacrosse Referees On Strike, Season On Hold

Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in California, but it’s going to be difficult to maintain that without any high school referees.

The Greater Los Angeles Lacrosse Officials Association has begun a work stoppage for high school boys’ games this week because of a dispute with the CIF Southern Section over pay increase. The strike started yesterday and the Long Beach Poly vs. Wilson game was cancelled as a result.

“All we can do is stay optimistic,” Poly lacrosse player Canon Carillo said. “Hopefully if we just keep training hard that stuff will work itself out.”

The CIF Southern Section recently tried to increase referee pay after the COVID-19 pandemic thinned the ranks. While sports like football, baseball and softball got double-digit increases, lacrosse was left with a $2 increase. That is the lowest of any currently active sport. Soccer referees also didn’t receive a pay increase.

“It’s unfortunate for the players, especially after coming off two altered seasons because of COVID,” Poly assistant coach Chris O’Brien said. “I think a lot of the blame falls on CIF and I just hope they’re able to take some action quickly to get the guys back and playing again.”

A CIF-SS boys’ lacrosse official is paid $77 for a varsity game this year. They make $115 if they’re working the game alone, which is not preferred by both referees and coaches.

This issue does not affect girls’ lacrosse because that is run by a different referee organization which has decided against a work stoppage.

Parents of the Millikan boys’ lacrosse team reached out to the CIF-SS office to ask about the situation, and the email response they received explained that the referee association knew this was coming, and that the CIF-SS office was surprised by the threat of a work stoppage.

Last week, the CIF-SS Council Meeting (with all 87 leagues in attendance) included the passage of the new referee fees proposal by a large margin.

“The membership, knowing the ramifications of passing the officials pay scale proposal yesterday, did so overwhelmingly,” the email said. “Even if this office had the ability to grant these officials, unilaterally, what they are demanding, what message would that be to the membership? This is a constitutionally organized body, but this office of unelected staff is going to veto your vote?”

The current boys’ lacrosse season has two full weeks left before the scheduled CIF playoffs start in May.

“This is just a sidestep and something that’s unfortunate but let’s just be productive with our time and work on some weak points we’ve been having,” O’Brien said. “We’re just making the best of the time we have now.”

CIF administrators and referee organizations have been warning member schools of shrinking numbers for years. Last year, some football games were moved to Thursday because there weren’t enough referees available on Friday night.

“We have been dealing with a shortage of officials, across all of our sports, for the last several years,” CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod said last year. “The pandemic has certainly not helped this situation. This is everyone’s problem and it is up to everyone to help get it solved. Our member schools need to treat officials better, specifically in the areas of safety, security and crowd behavior. Our officials associations need to make sure that they train officials properly, give them appropriate assignments and do all they can to retain new officials after they come on board.”

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JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.