Working with Game Assigners

By: Emry Dilday, Past President and Board of Directors, NFHS Officials Association; Missouri Sr. Football Rules Interpreter (27 yrs.); Executive Director and Assigner, Southwest Missouri Football Association (39 years); High School Football Official (43 years); Small College Football Official (36 yrs.).

Topic Introduction.

There are many ways NFHS Sports Officials receive their game assignments. Most common is to receive assignments through the Local Interscholastic Soccer Referee Association. This organization primarily serves their membership through professional and educational activities, but often also provides game assignment services. This article addresses the game assignment process by the Local Sports Officials Association.

The key to successful assigning is COMMUNICATION. It is vital that members understand the policies, methods, and expectations of their Local Referee Group and Assigner. We’ll try to cover the some important factors for you to pay attention to.

1. Where Contest Assignments Come From?

Getting your game assignments depends on a number of factors: the number of members in your local Association; the number of schools served by the Association; the competitive level of the games available; the assignment input agreed upon with the schools served; your State High School Association policies;

and the policies on championship tournament assignments. All these factors are taken into consideration.


When the number of members is considered, that is the total number, as well as the number qualified at each level of competition, and their availability for game assignments during normal member employment hours. Not all games are at evening or weekend hours when more members might be available.

As to the schools, some local assigners may only assigns for some, but not all of a school’s schedule. Some schools are served by other Interscholastic Soccer Referee Associations, or from state-wide pools of qualified Referees.

The competitive level of games available spans a wide range: junior high schools, middle schools, high schools, and sub-varsity levels. The level(s) appropriate to the Referee(s) being assigned is/are important.

Many inputs may be considered by an Assigner. Contributing input on qualifications and specific game and competition needs are: Coaches, Athletic Directors, referee Assessors, Commissioners, and Tournament Directors. Some criteria do limit the choices the Assigner makes.

2. How the Interscholastic Soccer Referee Starts?

The usual starting point for Interscholastic Soccer Referees is to join the Local High School Soccer Referee Association.

The Referee is then able to participate actively in professional development, Referee education, and other personal development  activities offered by the group. Ir all stands to your benefit. You should make sure to update your resume with your Assignor each season to make sure your current capabilities are known.


In joining the local High School Soccer Referee group, you become part of a network, become known, and are able to cooperate in the personal development and assignment processes. As you participate, you work to improve, help others, and prepare yourself for higher competition levels and perhaps more frequent assignments.

3. Written Contracts

You need to understand that your local High School Referee Association has a written contract with whatever school(s), league(s), or conference(s) is/are served. Each contract spells out the institution’s expectation of the Association and the Referees assigned to its games. These contracts also spell out the local High School Referee Association’s expectations of the institution being served. These are needed to avoid misunderstandings or disagreements. You are an important part of those agreements.  By accepting game assignments, you agree to abide by those agreements in performing your refereeing duties, and in meeting your personal responsibilities under the contracts.

The contracts cover a variety of provisions important to each Referee assigned. These provisions include: (a)detailed contact information for both your local High School Soccer Referee Association and the institution;(b) a game schedule from the institution; (c) security arrangements for you at the game venue; (d) pre- and post-game  locker and changing facilities arrangements; (e)compensation details; (f) certification requirements and competition level of the assigned Referees; (g) method of selection and assignment; (h)how each party can terminate the contract;(i) contract violation penalty and dispute procedures; and (j)Specific deadline(s) for cancelled or rescheduled games.


Of importance to you would be: the accurate day, date, time, and location of every game to be assigned; the security provisions for a safe environment and protection for the Referee Team; arrangements for safe, suitable, clean, and equipped changing facilities; the details of game fees, mileage, travel and incidental expenses, method of payment; recognition of your independent contractor status; your competition level assuring the attainment of NFHS certification through your State High School Association; specifying which assignment criteria are used such as: ratings, seniority, equality of game assignments, rotations, required assignment to cover lower level games, and input from institution for assignments; details of the penalties for contract violations, how they are to be resolved, and penalties for determining who is at fault; and the deadlines, procedures, and penalty for cancelled or rescheduled games.

4. Criteria for Assigning Games.

Your local High School Referee Association’s aim is to provide the best mix and number of developmental game assignments for qualified members while competently serving schools. The institution’s aim is to secure the most qualified Interscholastic Soccer Referees for its games.


Whatever combination of methods is used to select and assign, it’s important for you to make sure that you clearly understand how you are being chosen for the game assignments offered to you. It helps if your local High School Referee Association and Assigner have written criteria for selection. Make sure you ask about these. These may include any combination of ratings, percentages of different levels, seniority, past game assessments, school feedback on past performance, school input in selection, keeping an even balance among members, required number at each level, and personal judgment of Assigner.

Your local group should avoid using the competence ratings given by non-Interscholastic groups for your ratings; relevancy to high school officiating may be questionable.

5. Mechanics of Assigning

It’s important for you to know what is involved in the assignment process so that you can fully meet your obligations in that process whenever you accept an assignment.

During the pre-season your local High School Soccer Referee Chapter and the Assigner work to: set and communicate firm selection policies, procedures, and guidelines for members to follow; usually ask you for availability information for the coming season; create the full season assignment schedule; match the available members to the full schedule; ask you to confirm acceptance well in advance; and then rely on your game commitments to see that all games are fully staffed by competent members.


Much additional administration takes place, but the above are the key items concerning your participation. Your commitments must be firm. The negative effect of a commitment that you make in order to assure yourself of a game on a tentative basis but do not definitely know you will be able to keep can cause a great deal of unnecessary trouble to the process and all of the other individuals and organizations involved.

Obviously, there will be times when a personal emergency may cause you to drop an assignment after making a commitment. However before doing so you need to consider the effect of your cancellation.

After each season ends, the Assigner will normally provide a full summary of your game assignments in order to verify its correctness, the game fee and other reimbursements due, will

bill the schools, and then see that the amounts are distributed to the members (i.e. independent contractors) assigned to games.

6. Turning Back Assignments

There are some additional considerations when you turn back a game assignment. A main consideration is how you develop your personal code of professional ethics. You are, and should consider yourself, a professional in your approach to and conduct as an Interscholastic Soccer Referee. Even tough you might consider your refereeing as an avocation, you are expected to, and should want to, act in a professional manner at all times. Rather than risk creating a conflict with other Interscholastic Soccer Referee assigning programs, or creating last minute game assignment no-shows for schools who rely on the commitments made for scheduled games, make it your responsibility to find out the details of the assignment process and live up to commitments made.

7. Trading Assignments.

The problems caused by trading assignments without the knowledge of the local High School Soccer Referee Assigner parallel the problems caused by turning back an assignment. Swapping game assignments sometimes occurs between Referee colleagues. It should not be done! It is an unethical act by the Referees concerned. It often causes havoc at games, and it must be controlled through the Assigner. It is normally prohibited as part of the written contracts between your local Interscholastic Soccer Referee Group and the schools. If the illegal trade is made and a problem caused because of a mismatch between Referee competency level and game competition level, liability could well be involved.

8. No-Shows

The problems caused by an assigned Referee who fails to show up at the assigned game without notifying anyone (even if it entails a personal emergency) are major. First, there are the matters of personal ethics and commitment. The local Assigner goes to great effort to give advance assignments and confirmations. Each local High School Soccer Referee group normally has advance written emergency procedures for members to follow. Keeping your own accurate records of assignments and conformations should be part of your personal preparation for each game accepted. The local association normally has clear penalty policies and you should have a clear understanding of these.

9. Payment for Assignors.

This is a subject that you should certainly understand fully.  High schools do pay refereeing fees and reimbursement amounts according to contract specifications. However, part of these amounts usually go to remunerate the Assigner for the

administrative expenses and effort of the seasonal task. Not all local Interscholastic Soccer Referee groups use the same methods to remunerate the Assigner. Some involve a flat fee, some base it on total number of games, some base it on total number of assignments, others base it on a percentage of the total game fees, and penalty fees are also levied. Be aware of you local group’s method.

Also, be aware of who pays and how. Again, local practices may vary. Some groups remunerate a percentage of each Referee’s fees; others take amount from member dues; other Associations pay directly. In some cases schools might wish to pay directly to the Referees. Your status as an independent contractor is sometimes a consideration.


We have discussed a number of important factors for a successful Interscholastic Soccer Referee assignment process, and how you, the High School Soccer Referee, relate to that process. It is important for you to get to know as many of the specifics about this process as possible, and how you can help insure a successful process.