CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — High school football season is in full swing, but there is a shortage of referees in West Virginia.

According to the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC), there are 569 active football referees. They call every middle and high school game in the state.

The WVSSAC attributes fan behavior and long hours away from home as potential reasons for lower numbers. They say that the challenge is retaining referees, but that they have a 50% referee retention rate from year to year.

Alan Settle says he’s been officiating for high school football for 33 years. He keeps coming back because officiating keeps him connected to the game he loves. But Settle admits the job is very demanding.

“Officiating is not a glamorous thing,” Settle said. “Most of the time, people are mad at us constantly. Coaches, fans, it’s not the easiest thing on earth to do.”

Cody Clay has officiated for seven years and says fan behavior is an unfortunate reality of the job.

“Dealing with crowd control and unpleasant interactions with fans and coaches,” Clay said. “There are some instances of that, but there is so much more that is positive.”

Clay adds that an inevitable part of the job is knowing no matter what calls he makes every week, there will be people in the stadium who disagree with his decisions. But, he says that is a reason why he loves the job so much.

“Every decision you make, 50% of the crowd is going to disapprove of your ruling,” Clay said. “You want to make quick decisions, the right decisions, regardless of how that is going to impact somebody else’s perspective that may have a different viewpoint than you.”

The average age of a high school referee in West Virginia is 58 years old.