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NFL To Make Referees Full-Time Employees

With the league and the officials’ union coming to deal, will the quality of the NFL refs improve?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the great joys of watching football is complaining about the blown calls that the refs should have easily gotten right. You can argue that poor officiating is inevitable because the refs are part-time guys that aren’t paid very well. Well, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reports that those problems are about to change.

On Wednesday, the NFLRA, the union for NFL officials, approved a joint plan with the league to begin implementing full-time officials immediately.

The goal will be to get to 21 to 24 full-time officials, though that could take some time. It’s expected that there will be some full-timers in place before the start of the 2017 regular season next month. “I think they’re going to get plenty of applications,” NFLRA executive director Scott Green told the MMQB.

This is going to be slow going, but it’s a start. And who knows? Maybe kids will add “I want to be an NFL ref when I grow up” to their list of aspirations that they’ll probably never accomplish.

Under the plan, negotiated by the league and union, each of seven field officiating positions will be represented, with no more than five full-timers coming from one position. The full-time officials will draw from the current roster of 124 game officials, and the full-time officials will be permitted to have outside employment so long as, as Green explained it, “the hire will recognize the NFL as its primary employer.”

It’s pretty clear that this deal has been a complicated triumph for the NFLRA. Most of the current NFL refs have professional careers, like Ed “big muscles” Hochuli, and officiating games seems like more of a passion, rather than a way to pay the bills. It also looks like that will still be an option for guys like Ed.

I like that the goal of the full-time officials will be to make certain that the crews have a high level of consistency. It’s refreshing that Scott Green isn’t trying to say that this will be an easy fix, but more of a change that should have happened years ago.

Breer does some great reporting here that leads to an unanswered question: will any of this result in better officiating?

I believe that it will improve the quality of the games. However, judging from the comments by Scott Green, it’s not going to happen overnight.