The NFL has decided to start hiring and training potential replacement officials after talks between the league and the NFL Referees Association broke down during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFLRA needs to take lessons from the NFL Players Association's lockout and realize the league is not messing around.
Roger Goodell and the NFL seem to be willing to start next season without a new CBA agreed to with the referees. As proved by last year's lockout, the NFL will not compromise more than it feels it should and as long as games aren't missed, there is no reason to give in to the other side's demands.
The NFL will begin to host regional training sessions for replacement officials this month to make sure no games are disrupted this season.
The sticking point between the two sides is, of course, money. After nine bargaining sessions since October, the two sides agreed to federal mediation sessions to reconcile their differences. But that caused talks to break down and break off completely. The NFL claims new demands made by the NFLRA led to the end of the talks.
Just a month ago everyone seemed optimistic that a new labor agreement would be completed soon. Now there is no end in sight.
The NFLRA's clients obviously provide a valuable service to the NFL. The organization has a lot of power, but as proven by the league's lockout of the players last summer, no one is above the league as a whole, and everyone seems to be replaceable.
Roger Goodell and the NFL showed during the NFLPA's lockout that they wouldn't just give in and roll over during negotiations. The NFLRA needs to heed that example and be sure not to overstep, otherwise the league will just move on.
Back in 2001, the league used replacement officials for a preseason game and the first weekend of the regular season before a deal was reached. That shows that the NFL is willing to use replacement referees if needed.
The NFLRA would be smart to find some middle ground and bring the NFL back to the table.