The executive director of the NFL Referees Association said Friday he is hopeful the organization and the league will complete a new labor deal before the upcoming season.
The current labor agreement between the two sides expires at the end of this month. The league has taken a first step toward identifying possible replacement officials who would work games if an accord is not completed.
But Tim Millis, a former NFL game official now in charge of the referees association, said there are no insurmountable issues in the negotiations. He is optimistic a deal will be struck.
“We’ll continue until we get it done,” Millis said in a telephone interview. “Contrary to what I’ve read in some places, we are not at an impasse. Sometimes it takes shorter. Sometimes it takes longer. It’s part of the process.”
Talks on a new deal began in October. Millis said he expects another negotiating session to take place this month. League attorney Jeff Pash is in charge of the negotiations for the NFL.
“Our negotiations with the referees association are continuing and we are optimistic that there will be a successful resolution,” the league said in a written statement.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed a report by Fox that the league instructed its officiating scouting department to begin identifying potential replacement officials in case negotiations fall apart. The league portrays that move as simply taking proper precautions. The NFL used replacement officials late in the preseason and for one week of regular season games in 2001 before reaching a labor deal that brought its officials back to work. The two sides completed another labor agreement in 2006.
“It’s been done before,” Millis said Friday. “It’s a little earlier this time. If anything made me wonder, it’s the timing of it…. [But] we’re still negotiating.. . . I’m sure the action [in negotiations] will pick up.”
The league locked out its players for 4-1/2 months last offseason before completing a 10-year labor agreement with the NFL Players Association without losing any regular season games.