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NFL and refs agree on backup officials, but pension issue remains

Tony Veteri

Referee Tony Veteri (36) calls a penalty during the third quarter of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


The good news is that there’s a tangible sign of progress between the NFL and the locked-out officials. The bad news is it’s progress on a lesser issue, while the major issue between the two sides is no closer to being resolved.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the NFL and the NFL Referees Association have come to an agreement on the use of backup officials going forward. The league wanted to add 21 officials -- three more full crews of seven officials -- and have all of those backups ready to go in case a regular official’s performance was so bad that the NFL wanted to fire him. The NFLRA, as unions typically do, opposed that effort to make it easier to fire one of their members.

The compromise is that there will be 21 added officials, but they will be part of a developmental training program, and not considered part of the regular group of NFL officials who could step in immediately if the NFL wanted to fire an official for bad performance.

But while that is a sign of real progress, the larger issue remains the pension plan. The officials want the NFL to contribute tens of thousands of dollars a year per official toward their pensions, and the owners are adamant that there’s no way they’re spending that kind of money on pensions for part-time workers. And as long as that issue remains, the lockout doesn’t appear likely to end any time soon.