NFL, refs reach tentative agreement - New York News

NFL, refs reach tentative agreement

Goodell apologizes to NFL fans for lock-out

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Referee Ed Hochuli (85) signals during the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Referee Ed Hochuli (85) signals during the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Associated Press Associated Press
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The NFL and the referees' union reached a tentative contract agreement, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead.

With Commissioner Roger Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks at midnight Thursday with the announcement of a tentative deal, which must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. 

They plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

"Obviously when you go through something like this, it's painful for everybody," Goodell said on a conference call about 12 hours after the deal was struck. "Most importantly, it's painful for fans. We're sorry to have to put fans through that. Sometimes you have to go through something like that in the short term for the right agreement for the long term."

The agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. The tentative pact calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposed deal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years' service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year round, including on the field. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development, and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.

The NFL issued a statement Thursday:

"The NFL and NFLRA are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement tonight (Wednesday) on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, subject to ratification by the NFLRA.

"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow (Thursday) night," Goodell said. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."

"Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote," said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. "We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games."

The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of frustration that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.

It was not certain who would work this week's games, which begin Thursday night with Baltimore hosting Cleveland.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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