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Sport Manitoba is launching a new media campaign to help referees throughout the province.

The campaign, #NoRefNoGame, was started after an increase of maltreatment incidents directed at officials, according to Sport Manitoba.

"#NoRefNoGame is a reminder that without referees, officials, and umpires, there would be no games," the organization said in a news release.

The campaign is also designed to generate awareness, support, and create change on how referees and officials are treated.

“It is so important that the proper treatment of officials is brought to light in the sport community," said Jeff Hnatiuk, the president and CEO of Sport Manitoba, in a news release. "They are dedicated, passionate individuals who make games and competition possible for all of us to enjoy. Sport Manitoba is committed along with True Sport and the Provincial Sport Organizations to helping create an environment where all officials are treated with respect and people feel safe and welcome to pursue opportunities in officiating.”

Sport Manitoba said the campaign was first developed along with a workshop, which was attended by 60 officials in 2019.

The workshop looked at how sports organizations could address the declining participation of officials.

THE MANITOBA ACTION PLAN FOR SPORT

Since 1999, Sport Manitoba has been outlining strategic plans to make sure a "collective vision and common goals for the entire sport community in Manitoba."

As part of the next five-year strategic plan, the focus is on athlete development, sport culture, and the value of sport.

Sport Manitoba said one of the main points with all of those topics is working on the recruitment, training, mentorship, and retention of officials.

Cathy Cox, the Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage said she applauds the new campaign.

"We encourage all athletes, coaches, and fans to play the game and treat officials with respect. Now, more than ever we know what it’s like to be unable to play the sports we love, and these games cannot go on without the support and participation of officials," she said in a news release.

A similar campaign was created by the Manitoba Soccer Association, which was the Purple Shirt Respect Campaign.

It was created to help younger referees and help them avoid abuse by coaches, players, and spectators.

If referees were wearing a purple jersey, people knew they were new and still learning the game.

Sport Manitoba said there are roughly 8,500 officials that are certified in the province.