LEE COUNTY, Fla -- It’s almost time for play-action, the hits, and suiting up underneath those Friday night lights, with the possibility of no referees at the games. That’s definitely a flag on the play, but according to local referees, if they don’t get paid more for their services, they may not officiate.
Earlier this week the officials from around the state met with the Florida High School Athletic Association to discuss an increase in their pay. According to John Mantica, the chair of the South Gulf Football Officials Association, the FHSAA decided not to raise their rate of $65 per varsity game for the fifth year in a row.
"We’re concerned and we want the state to raise that pay and they’ve told us they’re not going to do it," Mantica said. The FHSAA dictates the number of money officials can charge schools for services. Right now the officials are pushing for a $10 increase, but since the FHSAA denied that request, Mantica says they might not step foot on the field.
"We had a unanimous decision, by all our members that we will not step foot on the fields until something is done," Mantica said.
Compared to other states, Florida some referees make $65 per game, but in states like Texas and Georgia, officials make $100 per game, Mantica says with everything referees have to deal with including fights and upset parents, he feels they should be paid more.
"We just want to be compensated fairly for what we do," Mantica said.
The Lee County School District also released a statement regarding the official's disagreement with FHSAA: "Our football referees are in a contractual disagreement with the FHSAA. We hope they can come to a resolution before the season starts so our student-athletes, bands, cheerleaders, coaches, and trainers that have prepared all summer don’t suffer the consequences."
Mantica says he also wants the FHSAA to create an official compensation committee that could develop short and long term strategies for tackling compensation issues - we have reached out to the FHSAA for comment, but have not heard back.