NFL's Regular Refs Back To Work Thursday, League Confirms
“Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement.”
The NFL Referees Association's members must still ratify the 8-year deal, which is expected to happen in Dallas before Sunday's games. The deal is the longest in the history of the two parties, the NFL said. League owners do not have to ratify the deal for it to become official.
“We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games," said NFLRA President Scott Green said in a statement.
Among the final sticking points was how to reform pensions of the referees, who had been guaranteed a specific benefit upon retirement. New hires immediately and current referees beginning in 2017 will be placed on a type of retirement plan that shifts more risk to the referees because they won't have a guaranteed payout. It will likely be cheaper for the league as well.
I was wrong in thinking Monday night was not a tipping point but NFL never anticipated the breadth of reaction way beyond sports.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) September 27, 2012
Besides caving to the union's pension demands, the NFL agreed to have the union develop some new referees to serve as a sort of minor league in case of emergency rather than add about two dozen new referees to the regular pool. Reports have said there would be 21 extra refs and that they won't receive union benefits.
The salary pool, which came in at $18 million last year, will continue to remain the same for the league's 121 referees. Salaries will rise from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013 before reaching $205,000 in the final year of the deal.
The league also said that starting in 2013 it has the option of hiring some officials to work year-round.
In a statement, the league said two mediators from the federal government helped broker the deal.
“The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating,” Goodell said in a later statement. “This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.”
“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.”