The NYC Race Official Shortage: The Update
Back in August 2017 Liz Marcello wrote an important Journal entry on ‘The NYC Race Official Shortage.’ She warned that, in addition to all of the obvious risks to the New York City race scene (what happens if Central Park race permits are rejected? Or Floyd Bennett Field gets redeveloped?), local races were under the serious threat of cancellation due to a dwindling supply of certified USAC officials following relocations and at least one experienced official who decided to stop working local races after being mistreated by racers.
Fast forward to 2018 and what happened? Several local races had to be cancelled due to lack of officials. Thankfully these instances of forced cancellation have been - thus far - few and far between. But as we prepare for the looming 2019 season we figured it was also a good opportunity to go through some of the 2018 officiating stats. As it turns out there are plenty of stats to be concerned about. Starting with the numbers:
As the highlighted cells indicate, the number of licensed officials in New York State declined precipitously in 2018. Licensed officials dropped by nearly 28% and the number officials that worked an event in 2018 declined by a similar amount. The count of licensed moto officials, who are particularly important for the Central Park and Prospect Park race calendar, declined by a massive 30%.
In addition to the usual pressure from relocations and retirements, it seems that a significant number of the officials that were certified in 2016 and 2017, when the officiating metrics were heading in the right direction, decided to stop officiating in 2018. This left New York State with its fewest number of licensed officials and officials that worked in recent years, at a point in time when the number of events was actually growing (up 3.6% year-over-year).
This led to the aforementioned cancellations and left a number of events understaffed versus NYSBRA standards: fully 1/3 of the race calendar was understaffed versus target levels, underscoring the potential risk of ongoing event cancellations for lack of available officials.
Even more distressing, these numbers include the benefit of a handful of officials that worked a huge portion of the 2018 race calendar: the top 4 officials in the state averaged 37 events worked in 2018. Losing just one of these most experienced and dedicated officials would greatly exacerbate the ongoing shortage we’re facing:
What does this mean for your average racer who just wants to show up and have a safe and well officiated race?
Don’t be an asshole. It shouldn’t need to be said, but we have all seen fellow racers, in the heat of the moment post-race, arguing with officials over how a parking lot crit was scored or disputing a relegation in a Tuesday night training race. Repeat after me: it’s not worth it. Don’t be an asshole to the officials (and don’t be an asshole in general). Thank them after your race. Officiating is a tough job and a bit of respect will hopefully go a long way at a point in time when we cannot afford to lose more officials.
If you know someone that might consider becoming an official, encourage them to do so (including moto officials)! There is an upcoming NYSBRA/NEBRA clinic in Danbury and NYSBRA will reimburse the cost of certification after you work three events. Each new official can actually make a very real difference when it comes to the sustainability of racing in and around New York City. Seriously, give it some thought, and see if you know anyone that might officiate.
With this little diversion into the nitty gritty details of race officiating, we’ll get back to broader ‘State of the Sport’ discussions soon…