At the start of the NFL season I gave Roger Goodell a good wrap for being an excellent commissioner. My opinion hasn’t changed, but his reputation was recently tarnished when a disastrous referee debacle brought the NFL to its knees.
To cut a long story short, the NFL referees’ union staged an old-fashioned walk out at the start of this season regarding wages. The NFL refused to budge on the issue and replaced them with unqualified referees. American football is a complicated game and the replacements proved to be a disaster. The situation became so grave that after three miserable weeks the NFL was forced to do a back flip, and last weekend the official NFL zebras returned to the gridiron.
The NFL shouldn’t have let this bad situation turn into a nightmare. It’s a business worth US$9 billion per year and has an obligation to make sure the season runs smoothly.
Some of the referees’ demands were legitimate, but they don’t deserve a pat on the back for returning. Prior to this dispute the average wage for an NFL referee was US$150,000 for the season, which lasts around five months. Refereeing may be a specialized, high stress job which takes many years to perfect, but this is big money considering what their job actually entails.
It’s unfortunate that both the NFL and referees alike couldn’t resolve this industrial dispute in a more efficient manner. They have shown a lack of concern for players, coaches and most importantly, for the people who pay the bills – the fans.