The catch that never was | Monday’s incident has brought the referee issue firmly to the fore. (Image | Associated Press)

It is official, the National Football League (NFL) labour hold out with its game day referees has reached breaking point.

Monday Night Football‘s match-up featuring the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks was the last straw in a weekend plagued with disastrous and arguably game-changing decisions made by the NFL’s replacement referees.

After a Hail Mary pass in the dying seconds of the game by Seahawks rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, two replacement officials looked at each other in overwhelming bewilderment.

The pressure of the moment was staggering: call an interception in the end zone and the game is over – Packers win. Call a complete pass in front of the notoriously frothy Seahawks crowd and the Seahawks win. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll already had his arms up in the air signalling a touchdown as did 67,000 or so Seattle fans that had packed Centurylink Field.

Did the men in pin stripes buckle under the pressure of the crowd, or was it simply another botched call for the highlight reel of botched calls that has been plastered across ESPN for the past two weeks? Pundits said that nobody would care about the replacement officials until they made a bad call that changed the outcome of a game.

Well now they have. It took three weeks to occur, but in front of approximately 15m viewers across the United States of America a game was ripped from beneath the Packers due to under-qualified officiating.

The dispute between the NFL and the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) began back at the end of the 2011 season, when the labour agreement between the two parties expired. Rather like everything in big business across the pond, the dispute comes down to one factor – money.

Stalemate | The demands being made by the Referees Association and offers tabled by the NFL do not yet match up. (Image | Associated Press)

Average salaries for NFL referees last season were $149,000. Not bad for a part time job. Under the latest NFL proposal, referees would see their wages rise to $189,000 by 2018.

Officials are after more, however, and over the next seven years they have staked a claim to receive an additional $27,250 per person per year.

This equates to around a $22.7n difference in the offers that have been put by one party and demands made by another over the course of the next seven years.

This sounds like a monstrous amount of money for the NFL, however the league will stand to make $70bn during the same period.

Thus, the disputed figure in reality only equals around 3.4% of NFL income between 2012 and 2018. The question, therefore, is as follows: is accurate officiating worth an extra 3.4 percent of the NFL’s money? After this weekend’s fiasco many would argue that it is.

There are of course other issues that are being discussed, such as changes to officials’ retirement plans as well as clashes over the NFL’s desire to add 21 more officials that can be subbed in and out throughout the season for referees that are struggling.

There are those that take the side of the referees: after all the amount of money they are demanding is a drop in the ocean for the NFL. On the flip side, they probably have the best paying part time job going in America.

No matter your opinion, something has to be done because the officiating is becoming a shambles that is overshadowing the games themselves. If the NFL does not act soon this season will forever be blemished by the officiating, or lack thereof.

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