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The lights are back on Friday night… sort of.

Several high school sports games across the country have been canceled due to COVID-19 cases. But that’s not the only thing that puts players on edge.

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Schools in Las Vegas are canceling weekly games because of COVID-19, but the games that are still running are operating with fewer officials on the field.

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Before the pandemic, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association had about 1,400 officials for all sports in the state.

Now that number has halved.

A typical high school football season in Las Vegas requires about 300 referees, but the Southern Nevada Officials Association (SNOA) says this is down to 177.

“We have experienced shortages, but we haven’t dealt with what we’re experiencing this year,” said SNOA president Vince Kristosik.

Christosic, who has served for 30 years, said some referees quit because they were concerned about their health, others moved to new jobs and some had just retired.

He said, “When the shutdown happened and the games stopped here, a lot of them said after a year and a half ‘hey, I don’t remember it as much as I thought,’ so they told us they were going to retire from caretaker. “

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Tony Thomas wasn’t going anywhere. He has been a referee for 45 years.

“As soon as I found out we were going to have a full season, I knew I was coming back,” Thomas said. “We’re hurting for the authorities. Of course we’re hurting, and I mean big time.”

And it’s not just football. Before the pandemic, SNOA had 104 football officials. Now, it has 67.

Two years ago it had 97 volleyball officials. Now it has become 79.

The referee stepped down in the last year and a half due to concerns related to COVID and poor sportsmanship.  There has been a decline in the number of referees for all sports.  (Graphic by Fox News)

But the pandemic isn’t the only reason for the lack of referees.

SNOA says poor sportsmanship from parents, players and coaches has contributed to the gradual decline in the number of referees over the past decade.

“We can have coaches and players ready to play for the coach. We can have arrangements for transportation. Everything can be fine, but without officials, there’s no play,” Kristosik said.

The problem is happening nationwide, from Oklahoma to Ohio to Texas.

In other states, such as Colorado and Florida, schools have moved games from Fridays to other days through the week to find enough referees for all games.