The National Football League (NFL) has announced it has begun the process of interviewing, hiring and training potential replacement referees for the 2012 NFL season. The League took this step as collective bargaining negotiations with the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) have broken down and the successful negotiation of an agreement may not be achieved in time for the upcoming season. Regional training sessions for potential replacement referees are scheduled to begin in the next few weeks to guarantee the League and its fans a potential on-going dispute with the NFLRA will not disrupt the season.
Negotiations between the NFL and its referees appear to have taken a bad turn following two negotiating sessions under the guidance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The NFL terminated negotiations after new demands were added by the NFLRA after the second mediation session.
“The NFLRA abandoned positions that it had previously taken and made demands totally million of dollars that they had agreed to drop in earlier negotiating sessions,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello commented.
It seems the game officials — most of whom hold other full-time jobs — were offered a seven-year deal that included annual wage increases between 5 percent and 11 percent. 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 by 2018.
In response to the apparent breakdown in negotiations, the NFL players’ union expressed its concern about the potential use of replacement officials, stating, “…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 first trained responders.”