HS Football Officials' Pay Dispute Could Threaten Season

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Sports officials face all kinds of professional challenges in their work — from overzealous parents to borderline abusive coaches — but football officials in Lee County, Fla., have another issue that seems to be bothering them even more: pay.

The Fort Myers News-Press reports that the county’s public schools won’t play in their regularly scheduled preseason football games because of an ongoing pay dispute. 

A Facebook post by the School District of Lee County announced the cancelations, saying
“It is with great disappointment that we are writing this to inform you that all home high school football scrimmages will not be played this week due to breach of contract by the South Gulf Football Officials Association (SGFOA).”

The post goes on to describe the situation, and suggests that the SGFOA is seeking more pay, but the district is unable to provide it as the Florida High School Athletic Association is responsible for setting the maximum pay rate for officials. 

However, the officials reportedly signed a contract in May that obligates the SGFOA to cover the county’s football games. 

“There’s really nothing to negotiate,” Chris Patricca, who sits on the Lee County School Board as well as on the FHSAA Board of Directors told the News-Press. “We have a legally enforceable contract that was signed in May. If (the officials) don’t show up on the field they have breached that contract.” 

In response to the work stoppage, the FHSAA revoked the SGFOA’s sanction — which is part of the how officials are allowed to work games involving FHSAA schools. The state association sought to replace the local officials with others from neighboring counties so that the games could go forward as planned, but those officials associations have said they would not work Lee County games in support of the SGFOA. 

If the dispute continues without resolution, the FHSAA would be faced with either having to find new officials, or having to cancel games.

The regular season begins next week.

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