Mark Pavelich Attacks Referee Pay, 'Big' John McCarthy Responds

The always outspoken MFC promoter Mark Pavelich made a minor splash with his most recent newsletter. In it he claimed that certain referees have become "celebrity referees" who charge upwards of $10,000 to work an event. From the newsletter:

It’s outrageous and absolutely inappropriate. These certain referees are charging anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 just to show up, bark out a catchphrase, and supervise a fight. But these fees aren’t being paid by any commission. They are paid by a show owner or promoter. And quite frankly it’s sad that some promoters feel obliged to pay them and put them front and center on a poster.

Why would they do that? Honestly, for most of them, it’s because they don’t have any talent pool to draw from so the biggest ovation of the night for anybody in the ring is for the referee. That’s a terrible statement for the sport of mixed martial arts. You don’t have much of a show if you’re paying your referee five times what you’re paying the two guys in the main event.

And how can you not call into question the ethics of these referees. Would you not expect their loyalties to be torn when some promoter is willing to pay them 10K, and that same referee is then calling the action when the promoter’s top fighters are in action.

It’s time for the commissions governing MMA to put a pay structure in place for all referees. They would be paid according to their experience, the level of competition they have overseen, and even feedback from notable fighters and insiders. There are a number of very good referees out there, including those that have worked recent MFC events. But even they shouldn’t be allowed to just toss out a price tag, or have a commission toss out one for them. There should be a pay scale in place – here’s what you get paid (plus reasonable expenses) … take it or leave it.

First of all, if a promoter is willing to pay a referee $10,000 to work an event, I'm not sure why that should be held against the referee. But, getting beyond that, my immediate reaction upon reading this was that there was clearly some sort of political motivation to the e-mail.

"Big" John McCarthy hit up The Underground (HT: Gal's Guide to MMA) to clear up some of the confusion:

I was told by a friend about this post so I looked it up and see that there needs to be some clarity and truth added to it. This whole thing stems from a letter written by Dale Kliparchuk and Brian Beauchamp back in the beginning of March trying to show that Beauchamp should be working at the UFC in Toronto. Dale use to run the commission at River Cree where Pavelich ran a majority of his MFC shows. Dale has recently been removed from his position and is no longer part of any commission. Brian attempted to have many MMA news and media people publish his letter saying that Ken Hayashi of the Ontario Commission was forcing promoters to use referees from outside of his province and that those referees were charging the promoters whatever they wanted. Part of the statement was true and part was false. Key Hayashi and his commission are new to MMA and he decided to use officials that have years of experience refereeing for the first few shows in Ontario so there would be less chance of anything going wrong and giving someone a chance to complain about MMA in Ontario instead of putting young inexperienced officials into pressure situations and possibly having a problem. So yes Mr. Hayashi decided to use referees like Dan Mirigalotta, Herb Dean, Josh Rosenthal and I from the U.S. and Yves Lavigne and Jerin Valel from Canada. All of these referees are making whatever the commission pays for the event, because it is the commission that is assigning the referee to the show. Ken has several people that I have personally instructed ready and willing to step in and begin refereeing and judging in the province, but he first wanted to ease them in slowly, so he has assigned them to the shows as inspectors and other commission assignments getting them use to being part of a team and understanding all of the elements associated with the sport and putting on a successful MMA show.

Brian Beauchamp is trying to tell people that he is the most experienced referee in Canada, or possibly second behind Yves Lavigne. It is totally false since Brian has refereed for approximately 2 to 3 years. There are many referees in Canada that have much more experience than Brian, but if you tell people a lie long enough they start to believe it. Referees like Vern Gorman, John Braak, Elvis Lyon, Tony Williamson, Jerin Valel, Adam Cheadle and Kevin Dornan could easily say they have much more experience then Brian, and none of them would be lying.

As far as "Celebrity Referees," that is a line used by Dale and Brian in their letter and now they have talked Mark Pavelich into using the same line. I have worked one MFC show and was not paid by Pavelich for working the show. I was paid by the Enoch Nation which owns River Cree. If I have a promoter contact me about working their show it is my right to ask for whatever fee I feel is fair. Most of the time that promoter is using my name to help promote their show and I should be compensated for that because it goes beyond the normal scope of the job. Now they are using you to help possibly sell tickets. If a commission contacts me and asks me to work a show for them I accept whatever fee the commission pays. Have I ever made $10,000 to work a show, No. I have made different amounts of money throughout my career. Last night I worked a show and made $280 for the night. This entire thing is about Brian being a person that wants to be a referee in the UFC. Someday he may attain that goal, but he is not close to being ready yet. although he believes he is.

Mark Pavelich does not ever have to pay for a referee or official other than one assigned by an athletic commission at the rate that the commission pays their officials. All commissions are different, but if Mark wants to have a Herb Dean, Dan Miragilotta or John McCarthy work his event at his request, then they should be able to say how much their services are worth. If he does not like the price then he does not have to hire them, because nobody is forcing him to. Hope you appreciate the truth. I do not hide behind screen names you know who I am. I wish this could be said of everyone.

Emphasis mine.

But basically the takeaway here is that the commission will assign your referees for an event. If you want to have an established referee with a good amount of name value that was not assigned by the commission then that referee has the right to ask for whatever amount they see fit. There is obviously a reason that you are requesting them to work your event be it name value, experience level or whatever. The reason you're requesting this referee is because he provides your show with a benefit. If you don't want to pay a "celebrity referee" then don't request one. Maybe the commission assigns one to your event, maybe they don't.

But for Pavelich to act as though there isn't already a pay structure in place and try to throw referees like Herb Dean or John McCarthy under the bus for (what seems to be) Brian Beauchamp's agenda is pretty embarrassing.

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