According to reports from the Associated Press and ESPN’s Adam Schefter the NFL said Monday that it will immediately begin to hire and train replacement officials as contract talks with the NFL Referees Association “remain unresolved and the previous CBA has expired.”
The league said it has made the decision to hire replacements “in order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season.”
“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 its 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. Elite NCAA officials who have retired and officials from small college conferences and arena football will be considered, according to an NFL source who spoke with Adam Schefter.
The training sessions for replacement officials will take place next month, the league said.
The NFL said the last negotiating session with its officials took place Sunday with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
“We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials,” the NFL said in its statement.
In 2001, the league used replacement officials for one preseason game, then the first weekend of the regular season. But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a new deal soon was reached that carried through 2005. Another contract was agreed on in 2006.
The NFL Referees Association has 121 on-field members and also represents the 17 replay officials and more than 100 retired officials.