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Florida Officials Threaten Strike over Game Fees

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Some athletics officials in Florida are striking against the Florida High School Athletics Association in an attempt to get a bump in pay.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported an announcement by the FHSAA, saying the Officials Summer Leadership Conference will not be raising the maximum game fee cap that officials’ associations around the state use to negotiate their game and match fees with the schools and school districts that they serve.

Football officials in the state were not happy with the decision, especially as states across the nation deal with a continuing shortage of officials due not only to scant pay but also to poor treatment from parents, fans and players. 

A number of Florida officiating associations are saying that unless the FHSAA increases compensation, they’re prepared to sit out games scheduled for August 14-17.

Prior to the Summer Leadership Conference, a number of officiating associations suggested that their members not pay their registration to the FHSAA for the upcoming season unless the maximum game fee cap was raised by $10. 

According to the FHSAA Max Game Fee, officials may not be paid more than $65 for a varsity football game. By comparison, officials in Alabama receive a game fee of $110, Georgia and Mississippi pay their officials $100, and Louisiana pays $90.

According to Phil Serfass, president of the Broward Football Officials Association, the “FHSAA has refused to deal with this issue in any meaningful way for many years now. It has now reached a boiling point. While we appreciate Justin Harrison saying that he will try to come up with a plan by January 1, that offer does nothing for this coming season. We are already significantly behind the other states in our region with regard to officials’ game fees. Putting this off for yet another year does not bring us any relief for the current year. Courts have ruled that we are independent contractors, therefore, we should not be handcuffed by an arbitrary policy instituted by a state office in Gainesville. 

"We are limited in our options. Short of not being available for preseason contests and kickoff classics between August 14-17, we have no other recourse if the FHSAA refuses to address this issue. We hope to avoid that type of interruption, but at this point, we have no other recourse.”

For its part, the FHSAA released the following statement on the matter:

 

The Florida High School Athletic Association has a tremendous amount of respect for our officials and their associations. This respect grew even more following our 2019 Officials Summer Conference in Jacksonville July 19-20, when we reaffirmed our commitment to addressing their concerns over pay. However, we also faithfully serve our 700-plus member schools, who already have their athletic budgets in place for the upcoming school year.

The FHSAA is not ‘kicking the can down the road.’ Solutions to problems take time, especially when finances are involved. This is why there is a task force in place that is meeting this month at their earliest availability, not ‘talking about it next year.’ This task force, made up of all parties involved, will help develop a resolution for the 2020 season and beyond. This resolution will be announced by Dec. 31 and will give our beloved officials, member institutions, and school districts a blueprint for the next 5-10 years. This is to prevent us from having to start over each year.

Lastly, it is important to remember that if someone were to stop coaching, officiating, or even mowing the field, the group of people who would suffer the most would be our student-athletes. We look forward to consistent communication with officials across the state in the upcoming weeks so our student-athletes are not hurt by this.

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