Updated 12:45 a.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 27
The NFL and NFL Referees Association agreed to a deal in time for the members of the NFLRA to officiate Thursday night's Browns-Ravens game.
In a joint statement released by the NFL and NFLRA, the two sides agreed to terms on an eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, the longest agreement with game officials in NFL history.
“Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement.”
“Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote,” said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. “We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games.”
The referees will vote on the deal Friday and Saturday to finalize it and participate in a clinic before heading to game sites on Saturday.
The new, eight-year agreement includes the following key terms:
- The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
- Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
- Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
- Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
- The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
"The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating," Goodell said. “This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.
“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.”
The NFLRA has been locked out by the NFL since June and the league hired replacement officials to work the first three games of the season.