The NFL’s officials have approved an 7-year collective bargaining agreement that ensures labor peace through the 2025 season. The NFL Referees Association held a meeting in Chicago starting on Friday after a tentative deal was reported last Saturday.
In a joint statement with the league, NFLRA executive director Scott Green said, “It was a mutual and cooperative effort that took over a year and a half, and the outcome is seven years of certainty for the league and our officials. We appreciate [NFL executive vice president of football operations] Troy Vincent and his staff for recognizing that working together to find solutions is the best course of action to reach a long-term agreement.”
Vincent echoed Green’s sentiments in the same statement, and said, “This agreement solidifies the working partnership between the league and officials toward the common goal of developing and training the best officials in the world. We will continue working together to provide fans, players and coaches with officiating performance that meets the highest standards demanded by the game.”
The terms of the deal, other than the fact that it expires May 31, 2026, have not been released. Football Zebras learned from sources earlier this week that a major concession by the NFLRA is a three-year moratorium on union grievances for fired officials. Dismissals and apparent involuntary retirements have occurred in the past in small numbers, and the first in-season firing in the Super Bowl era occurred in 2018, showing the league’s resolve to use harsh sanctions for underperforming officials. In 2003, Mike Pereira, the director of officiating, had to re-hire at the union’s behest 8 officials who were allegedly fired for performance reasons and not meeting physical fitness benchmarks.
Previous negotiations on a CBA with the NFLRA lead to the NFL locking out officials for one week in 2001 and for the preseason and three regular season weeks in 2012, rather than having them work on expired contracts and threatening a strike. There was no work stoppage in the 2005 agreement. Green, an official from 1991 to 2013 and a referee for 10 seasons, was on the negotiation team for the 2012 CBA.
Under the CBA that expires in May 2020, officials on average earn $205,000 in 2019, up from the $149,000 average in the last year of the previous contract. This includes typically 19 game assignments including preseason, and other assignments such as training camps, offseason OTAs, and officiating clinics; playoff assignments are paid from a separate pool. According to sources, there was a “substantial bump in game checks” and an increased contribution from the NFL into 401(k) retirement plans.
“We see this new CBA as a partnership with the league that benefits our membership but also seeks to make our game better,” said Tony Steratore, the NFLRA president and a back judge in his 20th season. “We all must keep pace with the speed and skill of the players, not to mention the increased use of technology. It is good to get these negotiations behind us.”
The CBA does not include the replay officials, who are on a separate agreement that expires in May 2021.
This agreement clears the path for officiating to avert a work stoppage, assuming that the league also wraps up its CBA with the players union before it expires after the 2020 season.