After a prolonged lockout that brought in replacement officials for the preseason NFL games along with the first three weeks of the regular season, the NFL and the regular officials made a deal to end the lockout. The move meant that regular officials were back, beginning with Thursday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
Heart of the Matter
The previous agreement was through 2012 and it gave officials the right to negotiate a year early. That was lost with the NFL lockout of 2011. The league wanted an elimination of the pension plan, to add full-time officials and create the backup pool. Officials argued the plan was to lock them out all along.
Breakdown of the Deal
The two sides agreed to a new eight year deal that was ratified by the union on Saturday. Under the new deal, salaries for officials are set to increase from $149,000 in 2011 up to $173,000 in 2013 and eventually reaching $205,000 in 2019. The current benefit pension plan will remain in effect for current officials through the 2016 season, or until an official earns 20 years of service. At that point, the plan will be frozen.
In addition, retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and all officials beginning in the 2017 season. In this proposal, the league will make a contribution annually to each official’s 401(K) plan of roughly $18,000, which will increase to $23,000 by the 2019 season. The NFL will partially match the officials’ voluntary contributions to the plan.
Beginning next year, the NFL has the option to hire officials to work full-time for the league and to retain additional officials for training and development. There is no set number on either of these yet; that will be determined by the NFL.
Winners in the Deal
The officials are the clear winner in the negotiation. When the replacement officials missed a blatant pass interference call on Golden Tate and a controversial decision on possession during that game’s final play, any momentum the league had in the battle was shattered.
This was made abundantly clear in Thursday night’s game: referee Gene Steratore and his crew were given a standing ovation in Baltimore before the game ever started. They now have a deal that will cover them through 2019 and addresses some of the major issues that they had to begin with.
Losers in the Deal
Clearly, the NFL was a major loser in this controversy. A poll conducted by ESPN and Global Strategy found that 76 percent of respondents gave the replacement officials negative marks, with more than half of those responding saying that some calls were “a complete embarrassment.”
The other major loser besides the league and its credibility during this entire fiasco is simply put, the fans. It was the fans that had to suffer through poorly called games and in some instances, it seemed fans were more knowledgeable on the rules than the officials. Inconsistency, missed calls and wrong calls were the norm, turning fans off from tuning in or going to games.
Are you glad that the days of replacement officials are in the past?