The NFL Referees’ Association and the league have come to an agreement to elevate 21 to 24 officials to full-time status, according to a report by Albert Breer at The MMQB.
The league would select the full-time employees from applicants that are on the current staff. There would be between 1 and 5 full-time officials for the seven positions on the field. While their expanded role is unclear, a joint NFL-NFLRA press release stated the full-time officials “will play an important role in enhancing communication and the flow of information to and from on-field officials, NFL senior vice president of officiating Alberto Riveron, and the league’s officiating supervisors.” There are five position supervisors who are former officials: 1 referee, 1 umpire, 1 line-of-scrimmage official, and 2 deep officials.
The statement generalizes the role as a “collaborative initiative intended to promote the common goal of enhancing all aspects of NFL officiating – scouting, training and mentoring, better understanding of current game trends, game preparation, and increased input on rules relating to player safety and game administration.”
The league attempted to hire 3 full-time officials in 2013, but that plan was scuttled by the union. The full-time prospects under that plan would have been reclassified as league office employees and would have lost the protections of the union and assurances under the collective bargaining agreement. Separately, Carl Johnson was a full-time employee when he transitioned from officiating vice president back to line judge; in his case, he already was a front-office employee when he made the move. Football Zebras has learned that at some time he quietly transitioned back to a part-time official.
Current officials must apply to be considered for full-time positions. The full-time positions are characterized as experimental, presumably to be re-evaluated in a year.
The move has been a vision of executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent to eventually have the entire staff full time. Vincent said, “We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game. 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.”
Union executive vice president Scott Green added, “NFL officials are always looking to improve, and we believe that additional time, particularly in the offseason, will be positive. We’re looking forward to working together with the league on this effort.”
Running counterintuitive to Vincent’s vision is that officials do work full-time hours during the season, despite holding down outside employment in most cases. Under the plan, these officials may have outside employment as well, which starts to bend the definition of full time and seemingly comes around full circle to the current employment situation plus some additional offseason responsibilities.
During the season, it would seem that many officials will be paid more to maintain the status quo. One concession is that full-time officials would lose their “dark period” — a contracted period from the Super Bowl through May 15 when the league may not contact their officials. Full-timers would be expected to work with the Competition Committee and other league entities during the offseason. The officiating department will “identify the most effective ways to utilize the off-field time for full-time game officials throughout the calendar year,” according to the joint statement.
Photo: Ben Liebenberg/NFL