Children under the age of 14 had been able to referee soccer games – that was until the Indiana Department of Labor informed the Indiana Soccer Association that doing so violated child labor statutes. A bill authored by Evansville State Senator Vaneta Becker would get those 300 referees aged 12 to 14 back on the pitch.
Murray Clark is a former state lawmaker and the current President of the Indiana Soccer Association’s board. He says it is important to get kids refereeing early so the association has seasoned officials.
“It’s been a strategic effort of ours to get younger people, players, to learn how to referee, so we started 10, 11, 12 years old,” he says.
The state’s Director of Officials Samir Yasa says his group must also prove the young officials are being adequately protected.
“That was the one challenge trying to convince people that by the way we are protecting these kids,” he says. “We are training them right. We have adult supervision. We have mentors. We have evaluators and so we have the tools to make sure that they are protected and in an environment that is not going to be hostile.”
Becker’s bill passed unanimously out of the state Senate and is awaiting consideration by the state house of Representatives.