Lee County high school football referees demand an increase in pay

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You see them at every game, making the tough calls and taking heat from players and parents. But now, the referees who call high school football games are throwing the flag for low pay.

Joe Rider pours countless hours in his second calling, which is refereeing under the Friday night lights.

“We have film review, state tests,” Rider said. “Then we have local tests we take and training session.”

This year will make his 45th season in Lee County, but Rider admits with the shortages, the state organization that oversees high school sports needs to raise the cap on how much referees can earn.

“The amount of time we spend preparing and money we spend on uniforms,” Rider said, “adds up to about two dollars an hour.”

Right now, a referee can make $65 a game. The rate has stayed constant for five years. That is why Rider and all but three referees said they would not agree to take the filed for this coming football season.

Kickoff Classics are set for next week. Rider said that since he is an independent contractor, he has the right to demand the rate of pay, when to work and where to work.

Lee County schools have sent a statement that says contract dispute with referees is with the state. It hopes they get it resolved before the season is set to begin.

John Mantica, president of the South Gulf Football Official Association, took the concerns of the referees to local athletic directors.

“We [are] asking the schools for an additional fee,” Mantica said, “that we would distribute to our members based on the number of games they have.”

Rider hopes the schools will take the referees’ cases to the state in time for kickoff.

“There’s not going to be a game without us,” Rider said.

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