Volleyball referees won’t oversee games this week, while football’s work schedule is murky ahead of the preseason Kickoff Classic. FHSAA says it won’t be a problem.

Amid a continuing pay dispute with the FHSAA, the East Coast Volleyball Official Associations announced that they would engage in a work stoppage, while the Football Association remains in limbo after the board could not come to a consensus with its members regarding this week’s games.


It is still unclear how many games the football referees will officiate this week, even with games scheduled as early as Thursday.


"The board made the decision that it was in the best interest of our association that we be prepared to work, however, our general membership voted that they would not like to work," said Travelle Northern, president of the ECFOA, the football association. "I need to get with our board, hopefully to work with the district and the FHSAA to see what we can do to cover as many games as possible for this week."


The football referees want a $10 raise, from $65 to $75, arguing officials in neighboring states such as Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana get paid $100 or more.


The volleyball association also say their rates lag behind Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana and asked for a $15 temporary pay raise from $45 to $60. The officials are prepared to sit out the entire season if they don’t receive the raise, they said.


"We are 40-50 percent underpaid compared to our neighboring states," said Kevin Finneran, the ECVOA president, who also cited a higher cost of living in Palm Beach County when comparing officials’ pay between states.


In Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, volleyball officials make $65, $60 and $50, respectively, for officiating varsity best-of-five matches. Each state has different policies regarding travel fees, as well as other fees.


In response to the football officials’ pay disparity claim last week, the FHSAA cited several factors that, they claim, help to narrow the gap in the pay disparity.


"Some FHSAA member schools pay $500 to an officials association in Florida at the beginning of the season," said the FHSAA in a statement.


"These are booking fees, assigning fees, training fees, etc… In Alabama, schools only pay $35 at the beginning of the season. Most states mentioned above do not offer a travel fee to officials for traveling to a game. In Florida, officials are compensated for that as well. So while most are reporting on the $100 elsewhere/$65 Florida gap, the actual gap is much closer if you add everything up."


The argument is largely the same for volleyball, and Finneran disagrees with that assessment.


"The public needs to know about the pay disparity, and that’s not close like they claim, that’s just absurd," he said. "Each year the FHSAA dues for officials goes up, and the services they provide have decreased every year."


Finneran claims that uniform, training and clinic fees could cost as much as $1,000.


The Palm Beach County football schedule is slated to start on Thursday as teams play preseason Kickoff Classic contests, which run through Saturday. Preseason volleyball matches are scheduled to begin Tuesday.


In terms of how many officials the ECFOA anticipates having available to work this week’s football games, Northern says he should have a better idea later this week. Despite the football board’s willingness to work with the district and FHSAA, many officials are opposed to working.


"There was an overwhelming consensus that folks will not work," said Northern.


Despite the impending officials work stoppage in volleyball, and likely football, the FHSAA is confident that Palm Beach County volleyball matches and football games will be played this week.


"It is our firm belief that no games will be canceled due to this," said the FHSAA. "Our staff has been relentlessly working with parties across the entire state to ensure student-athletes are not hurt by any work stoppage."


The FHSAA will not divulge the contingency plan that would go into effect should Palm Beach County officials in both football and volleyball continue their work stoppage. As of Monday, officials in several counties, including the counties surrounding Palm Beach, have said they will not cross county lines to officiate games.


Finneran anticipates the FHSAA having a larger problem on their hands when games begin later this week around the state.


"A lot of the other associations have registered their officials, because they want to avoid the penalties involved if you don’t, but they don’t plan on working," said Finneran. "We’ve been honest and upfront, and let our schools know we won’t be officiating."


"What other associations are going to do is just not show up on gameday."


Monday’s news about impending work stoppages in Palm Beach County came on the heels of the FHSAA’s decision to no longer sanction the South Gulf Football Officials Association in the Lee County area, as first reported by the Fort Myers News-Press. The SGFOA, and association President John Mantica, had been aligned with the ECFOA in their fight to temporarily raise the maximum game fee for officials to $75.


According to the FHSAA, the SGFOA reached an agreement with FHSAA member schools in May to officiate football contests and received payment from some schools before terminating the agreement on August 9 and violating Policy 106, Section 1 of the 2019-20 Officials Guidebook. The FHSAA also said the association had only four registered officials at the time of the August 9 registration deadline.


"By terminating the agreement they had and not registering, they made the choice not to work," said the FHSAA. "Us not sanctioning them had nothing to do with the fact they weren’t working this week."


No officiating association in Palm Beach County has been de-sanctioned.


rdipentima@pbpost.com