7 Reasons Being a Flag Football Referee…Sucks.

flag football referee

7 Reasons Being a Flag Football Referee…Sucks.

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This could just as easily have been titled “7 Things To Keep In Mind Next Time You Chew Out Your Referee” or “Give These Guys A Break, Seriously.”  But, if you’ve ever been a flag football referee, whether for a youth or adult league or tournament event, or any sport for that matter, you pretty much know how it can, at times, really, really suck.  There’s alot of great reasons to be a referee as well, but there’s no room for that kind of optimism in this article.  We’ve chatted with tons of referees over the years and have a good amount of experience here on staff as well, so here’s our slightly serious list of the top 7 reasons why it sucks to be a flag football referee.

You’re never right.

If it’s a judgement call…you’re wrong.

Pretty much no one has ever said, “Hey, you know… those referees were fantastic! They did their jobs well and I never once questioned their judgment.”  You know why no one has ever said that? BECAUSE IT’S A FREAKING FANTASY! Being a referee and doing your job well means that someone is going to hate you no matter what you say.  You literally could have indisputable video evidence of a call that everyone and their mom could see was correct with their eyes closed, but if it was a somewhat important call in the game, there’s always some yahoo ready to jump down your throat and tell you how terrible you are at your job.  And pass interference vs. illegal contact vs. “He’s just playing the ball” vs. “It’s not my fault I’m bigger than him” is clearly of the devil, and who in their right mind thinks both sides will ever be OK with that call?

The pay sucks.


Long hours.  In the hot sun, or freezing snow, or cold, wet rain.  It even sucks in perfect weather, because if it’s perfect weather I’d obviously rather be doing something fun with my time, or my girl, or my family, other than experience all the crap we’re talking about on this list.  And for what?  Compared to some jobs, the pay might actually be pretty good, but compared to what we have to put up with?  Could be better…

Someone will try to fight you.

Sometimes the only logical way to solve a dispute on whether or not that pass interference call was justified or not, is to resort to fisticuffs.  How many times have I seen a confrontation go from on the field to personal in a hurry, granted many times because the referee lets it or instigates something on his end as well, but still, violence is never the answer.  Unfortunately it happens more often than you might think, sometimes it’s all talk, sometimes it escalates quickly into a full fledge brawl.

The Hours Suck


What, you don’t play in the Thursday morning 9-5 league through your local city organization?  Yeah, neither does anyone else…which means we only ref nights and weekends pretty much.  That’s not all bad if you’re trying to hold down multiple jobs, which isn’t a bad idea considering what we already talked about with the pay being awesome and all, but by itself, we get to work why everyone else is having fun.  Awesome.

We Aren’t Omnipresent.


Ok I admit, I thesaurus’d the crap outta that word.  But basically, we can’t be everywhere at once, no matter how bad you think we should have seen that holding call. And that roughing the passer call.  And that pass interference no-call.  And that flag guarding obscenity.  And that good lookin’ lady over there, all at the same time.  Sorry, but it just ain’t happening.  Even if we could though, we’d still get yelled at anyways remember because we’re never right.  Fun stuff.

You Didn’t Play Pro Ball.

And even if you did, there will always be that guy who challenges your manhood, your football abilities and your ability to do your job based on this completely irrelevant fact. He probably is so used to selling his amazingly heroic football accolades to his peers that he’s actually started to believe them, and is taking it out on you for not seeing those 5 penalties all at once from also not being Omnipresent, so you can’t really blame him of course.

People Suck.

Ok, let’s just face the fact.  People suck.  Atleast most of them do, and alot of those play flag football.  Reffing is like the worst kind of customer service, where the customers don’t pay you and they expect a perfect service you can’t fully provide.  I mean, there’s an entire website devoted to selling apparel and gearl all about refs that suck called…refyousuck.com. Pretty fitting actually, might have to incorporate some of that love into our upcoming online store!

In conclusion, not to beat a dead horse, but sometimes it just sucks to be a flag football referee.  Just be glad there’s no such thing as an excessive celebration call in flag football….people would lose their freaking minds…

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Travis Burnett

A veteran flag football player and creator of FlagSpin.com, Travis helped found the Flag Football World Championship Tour as a way to help revitalize and continue growing the sport, work to incorporate more sponsors and bring bigger and better events to the players and fans across the world.