At age 73, Archie Harris continues to officiate matches for the Comox Valley United Soccer Club, which is facing a dire shortage of referees.
He is one of just seven local adult refs, who average about 60 years of age.
“I’m very happy to still be out there trying to put something back into a game which has given me so much pleasure, and to which I attribute my reasonable level of fitness and good health for so many years,” said Harris, who hails from Scotland. He has been reffing since 1985.
“I have been involved in soccer most of my 73 years, as a player, coach, referee and fan, so I have a fair understanding of, and great respect for ‘The Beautiful Game’.”
Because it has a limited number of youth officials to complement the adult refs, the CVUSC has difficulty maintaining all soccer games played throughout the Valley. The age gap between youth and adult refs is about 50 years — something the club is hoping to close. On average, it hosts 12 competitive home games each weekend from September to April. The busy schedule means most refs need to officiate back-to-back games.
There is a further 20 weeks of house soccer in the fall and spring that require 20-25 youth officials each weekend.
Officiating comes with challenges and rewards. Harris said dealing with the ‘know-it-alls’ — many of whom play old-timers soccer — can test his patience. On the flip side, it’s gratifying when he’s officiated a well-played game, after which players, coaches and spectators from both teams acknowledge a job well done.
Harris has a few tips to share with budding referees.
“Be confident in your knowledge of the laws, your ability and desire to enforce them, and have a thick skin and a sense of humour. Don’t let player or spectator criticism get to you, and if you realize that you’ve made a mistake, don’t ever try to even things up. Just try to be ‘perfect’ from that point on.”
Harris notes that several masters players from Campbell River took the referee clinic. He hopes a few local masters do the same.
In recent years, some of his most enjoyable games have been ladies’ matches.
“Most of the ladies have a great respect for the referee, and I have never issued even one yellow card in the 10 years I have been doing their games,” said Harris, who encourages members of the Mid Island Women’s Soccer League to take the course and become refs.
The CVUSC is hosting a referee clinic in April for youths, 12 years of age. There will be a second, entry level clinic in September for youths (14-plus) to adult. The youngest officials make $15 to $20 for U9 to U12 games. The U13 and U14 levels are $30 per game, U15/U16 is $40 per game, and U17 to adult is $50 per game. The club supplies kit — shorts, shirt, socks, whistle and flags — to make referees visible on the pitch. Each year, the club awards six bursaries, each worth $500, to graduating students of SD71. Being a referee meets one of the criteria — giving back to the soccer community.