Lee County high school home football scrimmages canceled this week over ref pay

Published: August 14, 2019 5:49 PM EDT
Updated: August 15, 2019 10:20 AM EDT

All Lee County home high school football scrimmages are canceled this week after a dispute over referee pay continues.

The School District of Lee County tweeted Wednesday afternoon:

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).

In May of 2019, our high schools signed contracts with the SFGOA that defined compensation. Ten days ago, the SGFOA notified us that they would not honor that contract and wanted more compensation.

It is important to note that The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) sets the maximum amount that the referees can be paid. Our District pays that maximum amount.

Based on the SGFOA’s actions, the FHSAA revoked the Association’s sanction, meaning they are no longer allowed to referee games. The FHSAA worked diligently to secure officials for this weekend’s games, but were unable to do so.

We want to make it clear that we absolutely agree officials should be compensated at a higher rate, and have promised to lead that charge when their contract comes up for renewal with the FHSAA.

We will continue to work on a resolution to this matter so our athletes can play, our coaches can coach, our bands can play, our cheerleaders can cheer, and our families and communities can support their teams.

The dispute started when the South Gulf Football Officials Association refused to work games under the agreed-upon contract back in May.

That led to the FHSAA revoking their sanction because in July they would not raise pay for officials.

John Mantica, the president of South Gulf Football Officials Association, said he thought a new deal was almost done Wednesday. But, Lee County would not budge from the May contract, which is $65 per game, plus travel expenses.

Now, the Lee County preseason games are canceled.

Terry Lindsey, an Evangelical Christian School wide receiver, said he could not fathom losing a regular-season game because so much is riding on this season.

“We have seniors out here waiting, and depending on this last season to go out to prove to scouts what they can do,” Lindsey said. “Taking away those games is kind of like limiting their chances to go out and perform and do what they have to do to get to the next level.”