While sports officials have not been formally designated “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, they certainly remain essential to all sports organizations now in the process of reorganizing to resume play. Of course, without sports officials, the games cannot be effectively played.
With that in mind, the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) has issued a 13-point plan focused on “Getting Back to Officiating Sensibly.” Most assuredly, other individual sports governing bodies and associations will each issue their own guidelines for officials, likely differing greatly dependent upon the sport and the level of play – professional, college and university, Olympic, high school and even the recreation leagues. Assuring compliance with the guidelines will be the responsibility of the governing bodies and the individual associations.
In instructing its 27,000 members, NASO President Barry Mano has stated what will be expected of all sports officials: “At the barest minimum, and for your personal safety, strictly adhering to CDC guidelines, OSHA guidelines where applicable and others which have been adopted by the communities in which we intend to officiate… Err on the side of safety!”
In many respects, sports officials and compliance officers have much in common. In order to be effective, both must be grounded in integrity and committed to maintaining high ethical standards. Players, coaches, fans, and game management personnel must, above all else, have trust that game officials will uphold the rules of the game and consistently do the right thing. Similarly, compliance officers must have the full confidence and support of employees throughout their organization, being fair and judicious in all they do.
Mano goes on to suggest that all officials should “take a common-sense approach to the restart of your officiating.” NASO’s common-sense approach to the resumption of the games has the following components (summarized and shortened for inclusion in this blog):
Sports organizations and associations are already beginning to develop plans, guidelines and their own standards for officials in the new era of the COVID-19 pandemic. NASO’s general guidance should aid them in that process. As with any initiative involving new rules, standards and expectations, the key to successful implementation will be compliance – especially at a time when the safety and health of officials is at stake. Remember – the games cannot be played without healthy officials, just like business can’t be conducted without healthy compliance officers.