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Article published September 28, 2012
NFL refs OK contract, head to Sunday games
IRVING, Texas — NFL referees on Saturday voted and approved a new eight-year deal with the league. Now they all can get back to the business of calling games. Referees approved the contract by a 112-5 vote, officially ending a lockout that led to a rising chorus of complaints from players, coaches, fans and politicians. The next stop for the refs who gathered in Irving, Texas, was the airport, where most were to hop on planes taking them straight to their Sunday game sites. The deal came quickly after three weeks of escalating difficulties for league-hired replacement refs, culminating in a disputed touchdown call that decided Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game. With a tentative deal in place, league referees returned to cheers at Thursday night’s game between Cleveland and Baltimore. The tentative contract called for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years’ service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen. Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials to work year-round. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.