The NFL and the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) have been working on a new contract, but the two sides have yet to agree on the terms. Starting last October the NFL and the NFLRA have had nine bargaining negotiations and recently two mediation sessions.
The last mediation session was held on Sunday June 3, 2012 in which the NFL presented a seven-year proposal to the NFLRA. In this proposal the NFLRA would get a 5-11% pay increase each year. ESPN.com News Services explains, “First-year officials who made an average of $78,000 in 2011 would earn more than $165,000 by the end of the new agreement. A 10-year veteran in 2011 who made $139,000 would get more than $200,000 in 2018.” The proposal also included a retirement arrangement that would give a yearly pay starting at $16,500.00 to retired NFL referees, investment opportunities, and reimbursements for medical costs.
Then on Monday it was announced that the league (the NFL) “terminated negotiations.” Greg Aiello, spokesman for the league, said, “In yesterday’s session, the NFLRA … abandoned positions that it had previously taken with both us and the mediators, and made economic demands totaling millions of additional dollars that they had agreed to drop at earlier sessions.” In other words the NFL Referees agreed with the NFL and mediators to not ask for an unreasonable pay increase, but then came back on Sunday changing their minds. The league has decided to prepare themselves for the worst case scenario and hire replacement officials. The NFL wants to have referees ready for the preseason games starting August 5, 2012 and for when the season games starting on September 5, 2012. In case an agreement is not reached in time, the NFL wants to have referees available and ready “to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season,” Aiello said.
The NFL will look at retired college referees as well as current college referees to hire, but will not consider any officials from the BCS conference. The officials in the BCS conference are run by the NFLRA.
The NFLRA’s counsel, Mike Arnold said, “It is unfortunate that as referees’ responsibilities are expanded that the NFL would jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game by seeking amateur, underqualified referees to administer professional games.” Aiello confidently replied, “The officials we are hiring are professionals who officiate games at a high level and have backgrounds similar to current NFL officials.”
When the players’ union heard of the NFL looking for replacement officials they said, “In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function. Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association’s trained first responders.”
I believe having replacement officials available is a good idea. The NFL cannot afford to miss any games on account of an agreement with the NFLRA not getting done. The NFL is doing what they need to do, but there is plenty of time before the first preseason game. I am sure the NFL and NFLRA will come up with an agreement before August.