It seems to me that the professional leagues in the United States just doesn’t seem to go into the preseason without some sort of lockout. Hockey, baseball, football, basketball, the last four 5 years have had some sort of action of this sort. And it’s getting a little old. Particularly now when the NFL has officially reached a 3-month long lockdown with it’s referees. They say it’s all about money, and perhaps the biggest question here is why, with all the money that the NFL has reported in revenue, can’t they come into an agreement with the officiating crews. Now, time is running up and with less than a day before the NFL season kicks off, no talks are scheduled between the league and the locked-out on-field officials.
So we can make it official. It will be up to the replacement officials to kick off the season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. During three different days last week the NFL and the NFL Referees Association met together to find a deal, but the parties did not reach an agreement to end the three-month-old lockout. Replacement officials who worked the preseason games will officiate the first week of the season. The league and the NFL Referees Association, which covers more than 120 on-field officials, are at odds over salary, retirement benefits and operational issues.
This are some of the key aspects that need to be solved before we can get the regular officials back in the field. The NFL would like to move away from the traditional pension model from the previous agreement, freezing pensions now and eventually terminating them in favor of a defined contribution model ranging between $16,000 to $23,000 per year. Not exactly your dream 401K. Now, when it comes to salary, there is also a big difference. I mean, big for the referees but it seems to me very little for the organizations as a whole. Last week both sides were approximately $16 million apart on a seven-year deal. NFLRA will emphasize, equals a cost of less than $75,000 per year per NFL team.
The NFL also wants to get more officiating crews. Move from the 18 they already have to the proposed 21 officiating crews. The NFL says this is “extras” would come in to secure their bench and get the training needed for the future. The Referees association see this as an attempt to threat to the continued livelihood and security of it’s current members. The NFL is stating that under the proposed changes, the pay structure includes annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it would ultimately reduce their compensation.
Now as the first game is just a few hours from kicking off, it becomes evident that the referees are now going to rely heavily on the replacement referees to make some bold and evident mistakes in their officiating either on Wednesday or on the bulk of games coming up on Sunday. If that is the case, they will certainly have more leverage for negotiating their return. On the other hand, if the replacements make a good job, they’ll be forced to stick with what the NFL throws at them in the negotiation.