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NFL agrees to seven-year deal with referees association

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New York (AFP)

NFL team owners and the NFL Referees Association have reached a seven-year collective bargaining agreement, the league announced on Saturday.

The new deal, which runs to the end of May 2026, follows the current eight-year contract that settled a 2012 referees lockout, a deal that expires next May.

The referees' union board of directors unanimously supported the deal, which was ratified by a vote of member referees on Saturday.

"This agreement solidifies the working partnership between the league and officials toward the common goal of developing and training the best officials in the world," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said.

"We will continue working together to provide fans, players and coaches with officiating performance that meets the highest standards demanded by the game."

The deal oversees such areas of benefits and compensation for NFL game officials as well as the training and development of new referees.

"It was a mutual and cooperative effort that took over a year and a half, and the outcome is seven years of certainty for the league and our officials," NFLRA executive director Scott Green said.

In June 2012, the NFL and the NFLRA failed to reach a deal and owners imposed a lockout and used replacement officials, a move that extended through the third week of the 2012 NFL season before a new contract was settled.

Increasing criticism of the NFL and the struggles of the replacement officials pushed the league into making a deal.

The NFLRA said its 2012 demands amounted to only $3.2 million for a league with annual revenue of $9 billion.

After the second week of the 2012 season, the NFL Players Association sent the league a letter asking them to make a deal with the referees, some players even saying they would pay fines to help get the locked out officials what they sought.

Matters came to a head at the end of week three when Seattle edged Green Bay 14-12 on a controversial last-play touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate.

Tate and Packers defender M.D. Jennings each grabbed the ball and came down in the end zone, prompting one official to signal a touchdown and another rule an interception on the play, the simultaneous mixed signals a symbol of the troubles teams and players had endured.

In the end, the play was ruled a touchdown even though the NFL later acknowledged that Tate had shoved Jennings earlir in the play, which should have resulted in an offensive pass interference penalty that negated the touchdown catch.

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