The NFL announced this week that they will begin hiring and training possible replacement referee officials, as talks between the league and refs stall.
According to ESPN.com, talks between both sides have broke down after two mediation sessions.
The league and officials had been negotiating since October, and while they said they expect a new collective bargaining agreement in time for the upcoming season, optimism has disappeared. Following a session on Sunday (June 3), the NFLRA said the league “terminated negotiations” on Monday (June 4).
In an effort to cause “no disruption to NFL games this season,” the NFL said that regional training sessions for replacement officials would begin this month. “Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games,” the league said in a statement.
The league will look to hire officials from anywhere but the BCS conferences, because those officials are run by NFL officials and the NFL doesn’t want to put the BCS officials in an awkward situation. They will target retired college officials and perhaps current ones who would be qualified to work professional games. Referees counsel Mike Arnold called those replacements “amateur referees.”
The players’ union expressed its concern about replacement officials, issuing a statement saying:
“In 2011, 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 trained first responders. …”