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Northeast Ohio high school football under pressure as number of officials declines

'There's a real threat to the sport of football,' said Anthony Bondra, who warns there could be a Week One officiating boycott if salary requests aren't met.

CLEVELAND — The number of high school football officials has declined over the last 10 years, and now, some in Northeast Ohio are contemplating a boycott if their requests aren't met by local conferences.

"There's a real threat to the sport of football," Cleveland Football Officials Association Secretary Anthony Bondra warns.

The CFOA made a request in February to conferences in an effort to raise wages for officials, asking for 80 a game this season with increases by $10 each year until they receive $100 per game. It appears those requests have not been met, and now, a majority of refs are open to sitting out.

"We gave them a survey originally," Bondra said of his fellow officials. "We asked how many guys are willing to sit out Week One if, in fact, that conference that you're working in doesn't pay at least $80 a game, and eight out of every 10 said they would boycott the games."

Bondra told 3News wages depend on what conference someone is officiating in. Ohio high school football is scheduled to start Aug. 18, but this leaves some games up in the air less than a month out.

Bronda also says a pay raise could help boost the number of sports officials in the state, which has been dropping for some time. The reasons for refs walking away from the game vary, but Bondra says low salaries and negativity from parents and coaches are main contributors.

"In the last 10 years, the numbers would indicate the decline in football officials in Ohio has gone from maybe 3,800 down to current level, which is about 2,900," he stated.

Beau Rugg, director of officiating and sports management for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, told 3News sister station 10TV back in April more is being done to increase that number, including encouraging pay increases. However, he acknowledged the process has moved slowly.

"We know at some point we'll gain some momentum on this," he said. "The bad news, obviously, is that doesn't help us today."


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