The NFL will start hiring and training possible replacement officials after talks with the NFL Referees Association broke down.
The two sides had two mediation sessions, most recently having one on Sunday under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In a statement, the league said that it would “proceed immediately with the hiring and training of replacement officials.”
"Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games," the league added in its statement.
Referees counsel Mike Arnold said replacements would be “amateur referees.”
"It is unfortunate that as referees' responsibilities are expanded that the NFL would jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game by seeking amateur, under-qualified referees to administer professional games," Arnold said.
The NFLPA released the following statement on the referee lockout:
"The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL’s decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season.
"In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function.
"Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association’s trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league’s actions in this situation."