Wellington-King’s Academy game and matches scheduled for Lake Worth Christian have been canceled with the officials engaged in a work stoppage; football preseason Kickoff Classic games appeared head for the same fate
A referee work stoppage over pay has led to a shortage of officials and the cancellation of high school volleyball preseason matches scheduled for Tuesday in Palm Beach County.
Monday night, the East Coast Volleyball Officials Association, which oversees games in Palm Beach County, announced a work stoppage amid a pay dispute with the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Without licensed officials to oversee the matches, the King’s Academy-Wellington match scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday was canceled, King’s Academy athletic director Chris Hobbs said. It has been tentatively rescheduled for Thursday.
Other preseason volleyball matches have also been rescheduled for Thursday, according to an area coach.
Tuesday’s four-team jamboree at Lake Worth Christian involving the hosts, Glades Day, St. John Paul II and Jupiter Christian was also canceled and has not been rescheduled, Lake Worth Christian coach Terri Kaiser said.
"Our staff is continuing to work relentlessly with parties across the entire state to ensure student-athletes are not hurt by any work stoppage," the FHSAA said in a statement Tuesday.
The ECVOA is striking for a temporary pay raise of $15. The officials currently make $45 per game. In Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama, volleyball officials make anywhere from $50-$65 per match, according to ECVOA president Kevin Finneran.
FHSAA said it makes up for the pay disparity by providing officials association a lump sum at the beginning of the season that can be used to cover fees that arise from officiating. The state association also said it covers travel costs.
"The public needs to know about the pay disparity, and that’s not close like they claim, that’s just absurd," Finneran said Monday. "Each year the FHSAA dues for officials goes up, and the services they provide have decreased every year."
FHSAA responded Tuesday by referring back to the Officials Guidebook on the organization’s website, noting from the 2015-16 season to this current season registration fees have fallen one dollar from $46 to $45.
However, the 2011-12 registration fees were $35, $10 less than the current fees. It is the oldest guidebook available on FHSAA’s website.
There’s also a $27 registration fee for each additional sport an official wants to referee, a policy that has been in place since 2011.
FHSAA said it has stopped providing hard copies of rule books, which is "consistent with most states around the country in this technology age." Instead, FHSAA provides access through the NFHS Rules App or through a ArbiterSports NFHS Central Hub account.
Finneran said that the digital copies can’t be used on school property because schools won’t give officials access to WiFi.
"So again an empty gesture and just a way to save money and if they are doing what other states are doing why won’t they pay officials like other states," Finneran said in a text message.
FHSAA responded by saying once you’ve downloaded the rulebook through the NFHS Rules App, a user does not need a WiFi signal to access it.
Kaiser said she supports the officials’ quest for higher pay, but the student-athletes are suffering for it.
"I feel bad," Kaiser said. "I feel terrible. But who's it's hurting? It's hurting the kids again. You’ve got to go into coaching, you've got to go into referring, you’e got to go into teaching because you have a passion for teaching kids. Because if you go in it looking for the dollar signs first ahead of the passion, you're not going to be satisfied."
Football teams appeared headed for a similar fate with preseason Kickoff Classic games starting Thursday.
Monday, the East Coast Football Officials Association met, and the board could not convince its members to end the work stoppage.
Football officials currently make $65 a game and are looking for a $10 raise. The ECFOA has said referees in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana make $100 or more per game.
Last night we met as an association and our members unanimously voted to not work games this week. We have not received a pay increase in 6 yrs and only received two raises in the last 15 yrs. Since January 2019 we have had ongoing discussions with the PBCSD for a $10...— ECFOA (@ECFOArefs) August 13, 2019
"Last night we met as an association and our members unanimously voted to not work games this week," the ECFOA Twitter account wrote Tuesday. "We have not received a pay increase in 6 [years] and only received two raises in the last 15 [years]. Since January 2019 we have had ongoing discussions with the PBCSD for a $10 raise for each on-field official while the FHSAA works on a long term solution.
"We are still continuing business as usual (training meetings, rules testing, film review, etc) hopeful that games can occur, but will not work any varsity/JV high school games until this issue is resolved. Our president and board are communicating daily with the FHSAA and the PBCSD to come to a resolution as quickly as possible."
John I. Leonard coach Keith Chattin voiced his support for the ECFOA on Twitter.
"As a head coach in this county, we support you guys getting a raise," Chattin wrote.
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, first-year Inlet Grove coach Charles McCrea also voiced his support for the referees.
"I’m definitely in support of the referees. I want that on the record. Being in Florida referees and coaches are definitely underpaid for the job."
McCrea, who has previously coached in the Hollywood area, has traveled to neighboring states, such as Georgia, for games. He said the facilities at Buford and Grayson High School were top-notch, better than what he usually sees in Florida.
"Don't get me wrong, Georgia football is excellent and Texas football is excellent as well but there's nothing like Florida when it comes to the great sport of football," McCrea said. "We're No. 1 and there's everyone else."
With so much talent in Florida, especially South Florida, McCrea believes a pay raise for officials is warranted.
"The refs are just as much of a part of what we do for the state of Florida as anybody else," McCrea said. "We ask them to do a very hard job, very hard. As coaches we're on them."