The NFL’s regular referees were scheduled to be back on the field yesterday after the league and refs’ union broke a labor impasse late on Wednesday.
After two days of marathon negotiations — and mounting frustration among coaches, players and fans — the NFL and the referees’ union announced that a tentative agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the bargaining table on Tuesday and Wednesday, said the regular officials would work the Cleveland Browns game at the Baltimore Ravens yesterday.
“Welcome back REFS,” Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted after the news broke.
The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of outrage that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.
“We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games,” referees’ union president Scott Green said.
The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NHL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union’s 121 members, who plan to vote today and tomorrow in Dallas.
The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it calls for their salaries to increase from an average of US$149,000 a year last year to US$173,000 next year, rising to US$205,000 by 2019.
Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until an official earns 20 years’ service. The plan will then be frozen.