Just as the high school football season is about to begin on Aug. 23, word has begun circulating that several officials organizations around the state are threatening a work stoppage if their pay is not addressed.
The timing is certainly interesting, as officials are giving the FHSAA and member schools only a few weeks to come to an agreement before games are impacted.
Football officials receive $65 per game in Florida, and some organizations — such as the South Gulf Football Officials Association (SGFOA) based in Lee County— are talking about going on strike for the 2019 season until that amount is raised, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
However, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is asking for patience from officials while they attempt to sort out the issue.
“The FHSAA is not ‘kicking the can down the road.’ Solutions to problems take time, especially when finances are involved,” the FHSAA announced in a press release. “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.”
First of all, it’s obvious that the work officials do is often under-appreciated.
All you have to do to see this is true is go to any local high school game. Wait for one close call, and you’ll begin to hear the insults and comments fly from parents and fans. It’s not as though this is unique to high school sports, but for the money these officials make, it’s often a difficult job to do with all eyes on them.
And it’s not just the verbal tirades officials have to endure, either. There’s hours of training, arriving to games early and waiting out weather delays that aren’t accounted for in their pay.
However, this isn’t the way to go about getting a raise.
Officials should think about why they decided to start working games in the first place.
High school football — and any other sport for that matter — has always, and should always, be about the student athletes.
Though this issue currently isn’t affecting Charlotte or Sarasota counties, the SGFOA presides in Lee County, and the proposed work stoppage could wind up affecting some away games of area high schools.
The Gulf Coast Football Officials Association (GCFOA) — which work Venice High games — is not planning to participate in the work stoppage, but didn’t rule out the possibility of it in the future.
“The GCFOA does not intend to miss any games this upcoming season,” GCFOA president Sean McCue said in an email response. “We are committed to working with the FHSAA to resolve the pay shortcomings in future seasons. The FHSAA has assured us that there will be substantial changes in the payment schedule for officials in the future. If that does not happen, there will be serious consideration for work stoppages.”
It’s understandable that officials in Florida would want their pay to be up to par with other prime football states such as Georgia, Alabama and Texas, which pay officials $100 per game. And it also makes sense that they would choose August — when games are about to start — as the time when they have the most leverage to be heard.
But any games that go unofficiated means less opportunity for players to stand out, make lifelong memories, and enjoy the games that they work year-round to prepare to play.
The FHSAA also noted that it “faithfully serve(s) our 700-plus member schools, who already have their athletic budgets in place for the upcoming school year,” meaning a short-term solution is unlikely to be had.
Now that the officials have been heard, it’s time for them to come to an agreement that their pay is unlikely to undergo any drastic change before the 2020 season — and address the issue at a time when it doesn’t affect the students.