Refs will not budge

The NFL regular season kicked off Wednesday, Sept. 5 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion, the New York Giants. Fans took their seats, players took the field and coaches paced the sidelines, but unlike previous years, the regular NFL referees were not anywhere near MetLife Stadium.

In the middle of a labor union dispute, the referees could not reach an agreement with the NFL on salary and benefits prior to the start of the season, which means that for the time being, they will be watching games from their couches as opposed to throwing the flag on the field after an illegal formation.

As it stands, the NFL has refused to budge on a proposed raise for the referees from $150,000 to $200,000. The issue is a $50 to $70 million dispute on a five- to seven-year deal — roughly one percent of the NFL’s total revenue, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN. Also at stake for the referees is the current benefits program, which the commissioner and the league want to drop.

In lieu of the regular referees, replacements have been hired. The replacements are a group consisting of collegiate referees, high school referees and even a former lingerie league referee. Replacement head referees are currently making $3,500 per game. All other replacement referees are making $3,000 per game. These replacements have been the subject of much controversy in the preseason after botching various calls, deferring to the incorrect team and stumbling through rulings.

“The NFL spends a lot of time and effort to identify officials that they’re going to be bring into the league,’’ Scott Green, a 21-year veteran referee, said to AOL Sporting News. “It’s not an overnight process. It’s a several-year process.”

“Normally, you have one rookie on a seven-person crew,” Green said. “I can’t remember in my 21 years more than one rookie being on a crew. It’s got to be unsettling for coaches, for players and for fans to think that you’re going to put seven people out there in the regular season that have never been in that situation.”

According to John Clayton on SportsCenter, there have been no further advancements to working out a deal as of Sept. 5.

“I think our officials did a more than adequate job (in the season opener), and I think that we’ve proven that we can train them and get them up to NFL standards,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, as originally reported by ESPN.

Compounding the current lack of progress, there are also no meetings scheduled between the referee labor union and the NFL.

Despite the fact that further controversy could arise from the situation, expect to see replacement referees taking the field for at least the first few weeks of the 2012 season. When and if regular referees reach an agreement with the NFL this season, they will have to undergo training before taking the field, which generally takes about 10 days, according the Associated Press.

In the first game of the regular season, there was little controversy regarding the replacement referees. The Cowboys opened the season with a dominating performance and a 24-17 win over the Giants.

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