It’s Over! NFL and Referees End Lockout!


Jan 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL referee Ed Hochuli (85) during the second quarter of the 2011 NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Welcome home Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey, and the rest of the NFL referees. Late Wednesday night, the negotations broke through, and the NFL came to an agreement with the NFL Referees, ending the season long lockout, and culminated with the Monday Night Football situation. Commissioner Goodell lifted the lockout without a vote of the referees, in order to allow them to work the Thursday night game that pits the Ravens against the Browns.

Clearly, the situation in Seattle lit a fire under the negotations. Barely 48 hours after the TD was scored, the necessary concessions were made to get the deal taken care of. The deal is an eight year deal, the longest ever between the owners and the referees. Here are some of the basics:

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.

The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

Earlier Wednesday, the league and referees agreed to create a developmental program as a compromise to the NFL’s demand for the addition of 21 officials to the current contingent of 121 NFLRA members, per an NFLRA source. The pool of money for the existing officials also will remain the same.

The developmental officials will be mentored by the existing crews and will be assigned to work with them during the week. The developmental officials will not be NFLRA members, will not work games and will not be eligible to be subbed in initially.

But eventually, as they improve and reach the standards to be NFL officials, they will be considered for NFLRA membership. As that happens, the financial pool for officials will be adjusted accordingly.

The issue of the developmental program was a major stumbling block to the negotations, according to many sources. Once it was done, it seemed to only be a matter of time before the deal was done. It’s clear that the Monday night game made a difference. Whatever did it, we are all happy. Welcome back refs. I am curious to see if they get an ovation when they come out of the tunnel for their games.