On the eve of the first day of the high school football season, Section III and the officials who work its games have settled their contract dispute.
Section III executive director John Rathbun announced a new four-year contract with the various representatives of officiating groups in a press release issued Aug. 29.
Rathbun said that Section III received notification from the American Arbitration Association that a contract settlement had been reached.
Although the contract covers officiating of all the section’s sports, concerns from football referees presented the major roadblocks.
While referees wanted five-man officiating crews, the section pushed for language stipulating four-man crews when necessary.
The final deal will allow for four-man crews to be used in those instances when there are not officials available for a fifth official.
The smaller pool of officials available to work Section III football games is in line with state and national trends, according to the section. “National surveys reveal only two out of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating,” Rathbun said in the statement, adding that the situation contributes to a nationwide shortage that has administrators “scrambling to cover games.”
“The new four-year contract is neither a win nor a loss for schools or officials,” said in the statement, “but rather a win for student athletes, who will now be able to compete with professional officiating this upcoming school year.”
The contract also changed the way officials are paid. The previous agreement paid referees a flat rate plus a mileage fee. The mileage pay has been reduced in the new agreement.
Section III’s 11-man football league begins play last weekend.
The eight-man football league starts its season in less than two weeks.