STORY UPDATE: Volleyball officials’ holdout leads to postponement of OH girls’ season opening match; football officials strike averted


Volleyball officials are holding out for a $15 per game increase.

UPDATE:  The Olympic Heights Girls Volleyball Team’s season opening match versus American Heritage (Delray) scheduled for last night, August 21, was postponed due to the ongoing holdout of the East Coast Volleyball Officials Association (ECVOA) over its per game pay dispute with the School District of Palm Beach County. The Lady Lions will instead open their season on the road tonight against Martin County High School. Martin County high school volleyball games are officiated by the Treasure Coast Officials Association; therefore, the ECVOA holdout will have no bearing on tonight’s match.

After years of being heckled by coaches, fans, and players, South Florida referees have taken a stand. In the first few days of August, the football referees from Palm Beach, Broward, and numerous other districts across the state, as well as the volleyball referees of Palm Beach threatened to stop working games unless they received a pay raise.

On August 14, the School District of Palm Beach County came to an agreement with the East Coast Football Officials Association to meet the demanded $10 per game increase. This agreement came just one day prior to the scheduled preseason kickoff classics that were in jeopardy of cancellation.

The district also came to the same agreement with officials in other sports, such as baseball, soccer, and wrestling. However, the East Coast Volleyball Officials Association (ECVOA) continues to demand a $15 per game pay increase, a demand the district refuses to meet. The district’s position is that the $10 per game increase given to the other sports’ officials is a fair, as evidenced by its two offers of a $10 increase on August 14 and 16. The stalemate has already led to a number of district volleyball match postponements and possible cancellations and threatens today’s scheduled season opening match for the Olympic Heights Girls Volleyball team versus American Heritage (Delray).

Olympic Heights Girls Junior Varsity Volleyball and Boys Varsity Volleyball Head Coach Robert Carruthers understands the officials’ position, but also feels it is the student/athletes that are paying the price. “Wages are a fair topic of debate and negotiation among adults in all functioning job markets; however, these issues should be resolved in a way that does not ultimately hinder our young student athletes from excelling,” Carruthers explains. “We have a duty to keep our students and athletes at the focal point of the decisions we make as a society.”

The ECVOA has cited that they have seen just two wage increases since 2004 and make 30 to 40 percent less than the referees in Georgia and Alabama. Broward Football Officials Association president Phil Serfass notes, “It’s time they seriously address the issue and bring us up to competitive rates to match our neighboring states because the quality of the sport in Florida is as good, if not better, than in [Georgia and Alabama].”

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) sets the cap for game officials pay in all sports, but school districts have the leeway to increase the pay through travel expense payments. In the case of the football officials, the FHSAA-established per game payment for officials is $65 per game. The agreed to $10 increase will come by adding that additional amount to the existing $12 travel expenses officials already receive. It is hoped that before the 2020 season, the FHSAA will raise the per game football officials’ pay to $75, thereby reducing the travel expense payment back to $12 per game.

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