Referee pensions major sticking point

Referee pensions major sticking point
September 13, 2012, 7:27 pm
Share This Post

The ongoing labor rift between the NFL and game officials enters week two with no resolution on the horizon.

That said, there is no professional sport in which game officials are more critical to the health and well being of the players than the NFL.
As long as news on the concussion front stays highly visible, the focus on the NFL and its replacement officials will be under a microscope every week until its resolved.In many of todays labor disputes its not just the money represented by salaries but the funding of pensions. NFL officials, who are the only part time officials in the Big Four sports leagues, have the lowest average salaries at 149,000 per season. Funding of pensions for veteran officials is a major sticking point in these negotiations.One of the significant differences between this labor battle and the last one in 2001 (which lasted until the 3rd regular season game), is the pool of replacement officials the NFL has to choose from.
Back then, the replacement refs were BCS caliber college officials. This summer, no Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) official can be found among the 136 replacements signed, instructed and sent out to referee games by the NFL.
Instead, in 2012, the league brought in replacements from high school, college division ll and lll, and referee retirees.The NFL is offering salary increases of 5 to 11 over a seven-year term for each official. The NFLRA (National Football League Referees Association) sets its own pay scale but relies on the league to provide a larger amount of money to divide. Last season the contribution was11.93 million. The NFLRA wants an increase of 2.2 million for the upcoming season and a total of 16.5 over the next five seasons.
This request seems like mouse meat when compared to annual NFL revenues.The NFL proposes hiring three additional crews (21 new officials) and introducing fulltime referees. There is a major gap not over the idea of additional officials or making them full time, rather over money and retroactive pensions for veteran officials.The NFL rule book is 244 pages long with a casebook adding an additional 113. No matter how well the replacements are being educated it will be a tough course to ace if the dispute drags on.
That said, the overall opinion voiced from all sides is that the replacement officials held their own in week one.So far the most positive result of the ongoing labor dispute is that the NFL saw Shannon Eastin, of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, become the first female official. She worked in the preseason and was on the field as a line judge for the opening week, Rams-Lions game.The NFL has negotiated nearly 28 billion in network broadcast rights fees from 2014 through 2022. Its annual business is thought be approaching 9 billion dollars and growing in every measurable way possible. The total pay package for the officials is a microscopic piece of the total NFL budget and it is hard to understand why this has gone on so long.A quick guide to some of the Official" differences in pro sports.Number of officials in each league:
NBA--45
MLB--95
NHL--75 (33 linesmen, 42 refs)
NFL--119Average salaries:
NBA--100k-300k
MLB--120k-300k
NHL--115k-225k
NFL--149k (they are part-timers)When labor agreements expire between leagues and officials:
NBA--2016 (agreed to 5-year contract last year)
MLB--through the end of 2014 season.
NHL--through 2013-2014 season.
NFL--dispute continues into week two of NFL season.Mike Pereira, former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL and Foxs officiating guru, can be heard throughout the season on KNBR with Gary Radnich and Larry Kruger on Monday mornings.
Pereira, who is the rules analyst for college and NFL TV coverage, isnt just another talking head. He is not afraid to speak his mind and with the labor pains continuing, his comments about the NFL officiating replacements should make for some enthusiastic red-flag throwing as we watch this season unfold.Over his 40-year career, sports executive Andy Dolich has held positions at the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. He is the Sports Business Insider for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.