New NISOA Referee Jersey

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Rumors are picking up on a new college soccer referee jersey. With NCAA rule changes coming in 2023, it’s a near certainty at this point.

Why does NISOA have its own jerseys?

Even though NISOA isn’t officially connected to the NCAA, it long held a near-exclusive hold on college soccer referee assignments. Part of the organization’s branding (and fundraising from sponsors) was to have its own uniform.

The NISOA checkmark jerseys and color-striped socks were seen on almost every college soccer game. They were also adopted by some high school referee associations in areas with a lot of college games.

Unlike US Soccer referee uniforms, the NISOA Official Sports uniform was unique enough that it was never picked up by alternative manufacturers.

Elite College Soccer Referees creates its own uniform…

While NISOA held a monopoly on regular season games, the NCAA took a different approach to its playoffs. It insisted that playoff assignors not require referees to be a member of NISOA or any other referee organization.

The NCAA contracted with individual assignors who used any referee they saw fit — often MLS referees who were not members of NISOA.

Some of the NCAA assignors began approaching conferences under the NCAA banner and have successfully displaced NISOA in many large conferences.

When ECSR signed a deal with Capelli Sports, it launched its own uniform. While this might be out of a desire to have its own look just like NISOA, many referees decried it as a money grab.

The NCAA steps in…

College referees are often currently working for NISOA, ECSR, and independent assignors. With conferences and leagues fragmenting into different organizations, many referees don’t have a choice especially those at the lower divisions who use local referees.

Many referees currently have to carry and buy three or more sets of uniforms. They might wear a shirt once per season or not at all, while NISOA and ECSR gain a financial benefit from every shirt sale.

Responding to referee feedback, and possibly out of concern for ECSR, NISOA, or anyone else creating a college referee monopoly, the NCAA is changing its uniform rules.

5.2.1 Referee UniformEstablish a uniform required to be worn by all referees by 2023.

Rationale: Currently, the only requirement for the referees’ uniform is that it is the same color and style for all officials. This has resulted in conferences establishing their own guidelines for what uniform shirt will be worn and, therefore, the necessity for officials to purchase in some cases up to five different uniform shirts. This rule would provide for a consistent look in uniform across NCAA soccer.

The current rumors are that the NCAA will not exclusively partner with Official Sports, Capelli Sports, Adidas, or anyone else. Instead, the organization will create its own design.

Similar to US Soccer referee uniforms, any manufacturer will be able to make the NCAA referee uniform. However, unlike US Soccer, the NCAA uniform won’t have a logo that only one manufacturer can use.

Referees should expect to see an announcement ahead of the Fall 2023 season. If you’re able to avoid buying new college referee jerseys until then, it’s probably a good idea.

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