The governing board of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League said Wednesday that is has awarded a two-year contract for officiating high school football games to a group from Massachusetts.
The deal ends 85 years of officiating by the Rhode Island Football Officials Association. The new contract means more than $100,000 will be paid to out-of-state referees.
A news release from the RIIL said the Principal's Committee on Athletics voted 15-1 to award the bid to the South Eastern Massachusetts Football Officials Association to referee varsity, junior varsity and freshman football games.
The South Eastern Massachusetts Football Officials Association will assign, evaluate and train officials.
RIIL's executive director Tom Mezzanotte told NBC 10 that no major changes to the football schedule are expected because of the change in officiating.
There will be "very little change to our schedule as it stands now," he said. "We are confident we will be able to accommodate games on Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before."
Bruce Guindon, the head of the RIFOA, said he is disappointed by RIIL's action.
"We've been told, and I have transcripts of meetings that took place with Rhode Island officials, Massachusetts officials and Connecticut officials, and both Mass and Connecticut stated they didn't have enough officials to do the games. They would be able to handle the games as long as they get a pretty good influx of officials from the current Rhode Island Football Officials Association," Guindon said.
Guindon said he's been asked to work on behalf of the new association assigned to the games, but he does not plan on doing so.
"I think their hopes are - there's a solidarity thing going on with the Rhode Island officials. Now that we don't have the contract, we're not compelled by a union or any oath that we've taken not to go," Guindon said.
The RIFOA has about 90 officials, more than the other bidders. But it has been the target of complaints.
"The professional attitude and the lack of communication," Guindon said.
The RIIL said the RIFOA was given the opportunity to address its issues and concerns during the bidding process.