John Clayton
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Wednesday, August 22
Updated: August 24, 12:46 PM ET
Clayton Q&A: The NFL vs. the refs

By John Clayton

Q: Is there any hope of a quick solution?
A: No. The officials are asking for a 400-percent increase. The NFL is offering a 40-percent increase now, and a 100-percent increase in 2003. Both sides are entrenched.

Q: What's next?
A: On Wednesday, approximately 200 replacement officials received a league contract that guarantees them $4,000 for being available for two games. The NFL expects to start receiving those signed contracts, giving them the option of using replacement officials for the fourth week of the exhibition season and possibly the regular-season opener. Officials who sign those contracts are not guaranteed that they will be officiating in the NFL. The only guarantee is the money. From that group of replacement officials, the NFL could pick a crew of at least 98, filling out 14 crews.

Q: Where is that pool of replacement officials coming from?
A: From the Arena League, from NFL Europe and from colleges. The NFL estimates that 75 percent of the new officials come from Division I. The officials contest that because most of the major conferences -- the Big 10, the Big 12 and others -- are telling officials who sign with the NFL as replacements won't be brought back into the college ranks.

Q: How much training would these replacements receive?
A: The NFL will hold a one-day seminar at an undisclosed location. They would go over the differences in the rules, and provide equipment and uniforms.

Q: What was the latest offer by the NFL?
A: According to the league, a first-year official will make $2,133 a game. An official in his 20th-year will make $6,333 a game. A rookie NFL official would make $29,500 in his first season, $45,378 in his second and $57,670 in 2003. A ninth-year official, according the league, would make $64,215, $95,000 in 2002 and $128,400 in 2003. A 20-year official would make $82,390 this year, $120,998 next year and $139,555 in 2003.

Q: Why are the officials pushing for a huge increase?
A: The officials felt as though they might have signed too long of a contract the last time. They signed a seven-year deal that kept game salaries relatively flat. To keep up with the other leagues, they want big increases. They say they worry about inflation because replay officials make $2,000 a game. That's more than what 55 of the officials made last year. There are 119 officials involved. According to their figures, the officials estimate the total cost to teams for their demand would be $430,000 per team, less than the minimum salary of a veteran. That would translate into a rough total of $13 million a year to the league. The investment in replay officiating is around $10 million a year. Because they are part-time employees, the officials say that they don't have health insurance benefits and have to use workman's compensation in case of injuries. There is a pension and severance plan in the current deal. The officials also want a comprehensive 401K plan.

Q: What will happen to instant replay if there is a strike or a lockout?
A: Replay officiating will continue, but with new replay officials. The replay officials reportedly voted 15-1 to support the officials and not go in as replacements. The league would hire new replay officials and new communicators.

Q: What are front office executives saying about the labor dispute?
A: Nothing. In fact, they don't seem to care. They don't like officials because their bad calls might cost them jobs so they are staying on the outside looking in on this dispute.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for

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