Lee County has to cancel preseason football games due to officials work stoppage

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Lee County has to cancel preseason football games due to officials work stoppage


Lee County has to cancel preseason football games due to officials work stoppage


Lee County public high schools will not play host to preseason football games Thursday and Friday nights because of an ongoing pay dispute with its football officials.

The School District of Lee County posted on its Facebook page Wednesday evening that the games in county would be canceled.

“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 said.

The SGFOA signed a contract in May to cover Lee Schools’ football games. The officials’ president John Mantica said they signed the contract hoping the Florida High School Athletic Association, which sets maximum pay for officials at $65 per person per game, would give a raise.

In July the FHSAA said it would not raise pay. Last week the FHSAA put out a statement promising to give officials a raise in all sports starting next school year.

“There’s really nothing to negotiate,” said Chris Patricca, who is on the Lee County School Board and on the FHSAA Board of Directors. “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.”

On Monday, the FHSAA revoked the local officials’ sanction for actions it deemed harmful to member schools. The move was based on the SGFOA refusing to honor its contract.

Representatives from the FHSAA did not return emails seeking comment Wednesday.

All referees working games involving FHSAA schools must be registered with the state and must belong to an officials association that is sanctioned. Besides Lee County’s public schools, the SGFOA also covers the county’s six private and charter schools along with LaBelle, Moore Haven, and Port Charlotte high schools.

On Wednesday, Eddie Lewin, vice president of the SGFOA, said all nine schools outside of the Lee public district had signed contracts with the group. The new deal calls for $10 more per official per game, plus each school would pay a $300 administrative fee with the money going back to the refs.

Athletic directors at all schools but Moore Haven and Port Charlotte, who could not be reached, confirmed the deal.

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