It has been a five-year process and may only last one season, but the NFL is going to have some of its officials as full-time employees. The league and the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) agreed on Wednesday to implement the 2012 collective bargaining agreement and try out the experiment for the 2017 season.
Up until this year, the 124 NFL referees have worked part time. Many of them have other professions, such as lawyers, insurance agents and financial advisors. A couple of them also work as officials at college football games. The deal calls for up to 24 full-time officials for this year. They would reevaluate the program at the end of the year and see if they want to continue it and add more.
With legalized gambling a real possibility, the NFL had to concede the fact that they needed full-timers on the field. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of sports gambling, casinos throughout the country will soon have sportsbooks. Those millions of dollars that were bet illegally, will suddenly be legitimate and the league would be held to a higher standard.
Good for the Game
Executives at the league office in New York City were excited about the program and believe it will be successful.
â€œWe believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game,â€ Troy Vincent, the NFLâ€™s executive vice president of football operations, said in a written statement. â€œWe share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort.â€
Scott Green, executive director of the NFLRA was a little more reserved in his praise for the concept.
â€œWeâ€™re happy to be able to come to an agreement, and weâ€™re committed to making it work,â€ Green said. â€œAnything that helps the game, weâ€™re 100 percent for that.â€
He then went on Sirius/XM NFL Radio and said that there are several details that need to be worked out.
â€œWhatâ€™s the pay going to be?â€ he asked. â€œWhat are the responsibilities? None of that has been defined at this point.â€
Questions Still Need Answers
Commissioner Roger Goodell has been a staunch opponent of legalized gambling, but realizes that even if the Supreme Court doesnâ€™t rule to make it legal, Congress may very well pass legislation.
In addition, he has one of his teams moving to Las Vegas in three years. Once the Raiders set up residency in Sin City, there will be betting on the team at one of the many legal sportsbooks. Also people may be able to use mobile apps to bet on the team while watching the game at the stadium.
That will only multiply if casinos, like the ones in Atlantic City, are able to offer legal wagering on games. There are four NFL squads whose stadiums are less than a three-hour drive and it is expected fans will flock there to plunk down money.