The NFL has asked its officiating-scouting department to begin identifying potential replacement officials for the 2012 season, according to a letter obtained by FOXSports.com.
The move is the result of an apparent impasse in labor negotiations between the league and the NFL Referees Association over a new contract for NFL officials. The previous deal, which was negotiated in 2006, expired at the end of the 2011 season.
“This is a contingency plan to make sure the NFL season will continue on schedule as planned,” Ron Bayne, the NFL’s director of recruiting officials, wrote to FOXSports.com.
According to the directive, the search will target recently retired college officials, as well as current “lower-division college, professional league and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked.”
NFL Referees Association executive director Tim Millis told The Associated Press that he was “surprised by the timing” of the league’s directive to begin identifying potential replacement officials.
The NFL used replacement officials in 2001 during the preseason and Week One but then reached a new five-year agreement after the first week of the regular season.
NFL officials are believed to have earned between $70,000 and $140,000 annually under the previous agreement, according to FOXSports.com, working approximately 20 games per season and also spending time reviewing the rules and studying game videotapes. Most NFL officials hold full-time jobs in addition to their NFL duties.