In an effort to improve the game and with an eye on the possible legalization of sports gambling nationwide, the NFL announced Wednesday that it will hire up to 24 full-time referees.
The NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) confirmed the news and said between 21 and 24 officials from its current roster of 124 who already work Sunday games will be considered.
They would be hired at each of the seven on-field officiating positions, not only from among the referees who are the chiefs of the league’s 17 officiating crews.
This is the culmination of a five-year process that was negotiated between the professional football league and the organization that represents the referees. The deal was signed as part of the collective bargaining agreement in 2012 and terms of the agreement were finally agreed upon.
“We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a written statement. “We share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort.”
Scott Green, executive director of the NFLRA, went on Sirius/XM NFL Radio and said that there are several details that need to be worked out.
“What’s the pay going to be?” he asked. “What are the responsibilities? None of that has been defined at this point.”
Another issue is compensation. Most of the current officials have full-time jobs, working as attorneys, financial advisors and insurance agents.
Working part time was extra money and a full-time salary from the NFL may not be able to equal what they are currently making. Green is confidant the one-year experiment will continue past 2018.
“We’re happy to be able to come to an agreement, and we’re committed to making it work,” Green said. “Anything that helps the game, we’re 100 percent for that.”
Clear Reasons for Change
Football is the only one of the four big professional sports that uses part-time employees to work games. That is something people in the league office wanted to change.
Another reason for the move was the distinct possibility that sports gambling will be legalized in the US by the end of the year.
The Supreme Court will be hearing a case related to that topic in the Fall and if they don’t agree, Congress could still pass legislation making wagering on sports legal in all states.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has had to accept the fact that sports gambling is popular, said two years ago he wanted officials to be the best in any professional league.
“When we talk about integrity of the game, that’s one thing that truly affects the integrity of the game,” Goodell said then. “We strive for perfection. We strive for consistency. We’re not gonna always get that. But we’re always going to continue to try to get that.”