What really annoys NFL refs

The league and its officials may be close to a deal, but reportedly can't come to any resolution over a proposed switch from pensions to retirement plans that are less secure.

By Kim Peterson Sep 26, 2012 3:26PM
The main thing we're learning from the National Football League's beef with its referees is that it's pretty great to be a referee.

These guys get an average salary of $149,000 for part-time work, and most of them hold other jobs during the week. That's nothing compared with the $1.9 million average NFL player salary, but hey, it's a pretty nice haul.

That may be why salaries are not at the center of the dispute between the two sides. What's really bugging the refs are the league's proposed changes to their pension plans. "The key is the pension issue," the head of the NFL Referees Association told the Huffington Post. "A lot of our guys have made life-career decisions based on assuming that pension would be there."

This scenario has been hitting workers across America for decades. Companies have been very successful at moving employees from pension plans to 401ks and other plans that are cheaper and less secure.

Caterpillar (CAT), which made a record $4.9 billion profit last year, successfully pushed a pension freeze to many workers at its plant in Joliet, Ill., this year. Union members had been on strike for months, but in the end voted to give Caterpillar nearly everything it asked for.

General Motors (GM) moved 19,000 salaried workers to 401k plans this year and froze its traditional pension. IBM (IBM) froze its traditional pension plan years ago in favor of 401k's.

The public sector is seeing similar pension cuts. This week, the Los Angeles City Council gave the green light to a plan to roll back pension benefits for new workers.

About 70% of workers who do get retirement benefits only have a 401k option, writes Robert Hiltonsmith, a policy analyst for public policy group Demos. He adds that 401k's can be more expensive than the pooled-asset pension plans. They also give workers more responsibility -- and more risk -- in developing a retirement strategy.

One place where pensions have not disappeared? The National Football League, which has had a pension since 1959, reports Fox Business. Players get pension benefits for each season, and a player with five seasons between 1998 and 2011 would get $2,350 a month for life starting at age 55.Image: 401k -- Don Farrall, Photodisc, Getty Images

The league also has a 401k-type plan that matches as much as $2 for every $1 invested by the player. And players can also contribute to an annuity program after four seasons.

The league has contributed an average of $5.3 million a year to the referee pension plan over the last five years, reports Sports Illustrated. It would save about $3.3 million a year by moving refs over to a 401k-type plan.

The NFL and officials are negotiating, but by Wednesday afternoon the pension issue was still hanging. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that most of America no longer gets defined-benefit pensions, and the league owners see no need to keep giving it to officials.

"From the owners' standpoint, right now they're funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program," Goodell told the Huffington Post. "About 10% of the country has that. Yours truly doesn't have that. It's something that doesn't really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily."

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19Comments
Sep 26, 2012 3:48PM
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Everybody is blaming the NFL for bad officiating when they should be placing at least some of that blame on greedy referees.  These guys make a fortune for part-time work, and only work a couple months during the year!!!  And then they demand that their retirement be paid for too?  A sticking point in the negotiations is that referees don't want to give up any job security by training back up crews...no wonder--they have the cushiest job on the planet!  Of course, they're on strike because they apparently want it to be even cushier. 
Sep 26, 2012 4:39PM
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$3.3 Million a year...

 

So if Green Bay doesn't get a home playoff game because of that loss, do you think that will cost the city more or less than $3.3 million?

Sep 26, 2012 4:43PM
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The owners are crying about 3.3 million dollars,when they made BILLIONS. Give me a break. You can't fix STUPID,or GREEDY!!!!
Sep 26, 2012 4:53PM
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Now why was video review instituted to begin with?....Could it have been that the regulars were not always getting it right?....

Sep 26, 2012 5:48PM
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Oh yes, what a GREAT example!  Hooray for the great union that protects the part-time employee making $149k from having to invest in a 401k.  My heart really goes out to the mistreated refs.

What you and your 'occupy' buddies don't seem to get is that the $'s have to come from somewhere.  You can't just print them like Bernanke & Co. so love to do.  How's that QE3 been treating you the last 2 weeks?  Are you surprised we're coming off our sugar high now?

So, hooray for the unions that create ridiculous entitlements and employee 'rights' that are far from rights.  You don't like the working conditions, find another job... we're far from the days of work environments that necessitated workers to unite.  The only reason workers unite now is to bend the employer over the barrel without producing anything worth compensation.  Just drive to any government job site and you'll see a great example of complete inefficiency.  Or, anywhere in Chicago...

Again, if you don't like the work environment, find another job (If that's a sticking point because there are no jobs, ask your Pres. where those shovel ready ones went???)  If no one will work for the company due to poor working conditions, then the company goes under or changes.  Natural selection at its best.... and if you suck at your job, you're NOT protected.  Your **** gets fired.  Bunch of whining cry babies that were never told NO as a child.  You don't get a trophy for playing, you get one for competing and excelling!

Sep 26, 2012 5:26PM
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Actually, I believe that the NFL should make the following change:  make pass interference REVIEWABLE!  That's it.

 

Now, if you watch NFL football, you know the following:  to make a catch, you must do (at least) the following:  1.  Make the catch and secure the ball with your hands.  2.  Have both feet hit the ground.  3.  (Perhaps, not sure if it still applies but doesn't matter) Make some kind of a "football move," whatever that means.  (Doesn't matter if you are a reveiver or a DB.)

 

So, the catch by the Seahawk player WAS legit, even if you don't like it.  Why?  The receiver grabbed the ball before the DB hit the ground, and so you have a tie, which goes to the receiver.  However, there was obviously an offensive pass interference that should have been called that would have negated the catch.

 

Game over.  But not the way you thought it was. . . .

Sep 26, 2012 10:34PM
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Supposedly the NFL had agreed to this pension and are now changing their prior agreement from 2003...I also wonder how  much a home playoff game can mean money wise.... millions in parking, pro shop sales, concessions etc...
Sep 27, 2012 1:38PM
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The 401K plan was never meant to replace a pension plan.  It was developed so people would be able to have another form of savings.  So the bottom line, is that it saves a employer a lot of money in the long run.  Just like everything else greed supercedes everything. 
Sep 26, 2012 6:22PM
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Come on, they are making about 150k a year and im sure that they get travel

and lodging paid for. The season is 16 wks plus preseason that isnt bad wages

and yet its not enough. In my opinion they should be given the boot if no contract

is worked out by mid season. Make them reapply for their jobs and in the mean

time the replacement ref's will only get better and up to speed as familiarity with

the different rules increases. As for the replacement ref's if that time limit comes

to pass they have the option of full time employment..

Sep 27, 2012 9:30AM
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Looks like some Part-time help wants a slam dunk....Just gimmee,gimmee my pension, and I don't want to have to make any decisions on my own, or how to invest in my future...

Sweet Geezus...guess I should have finished and became a Ref...

Real job $50-70,000 per year, reffing $149K per year and gimmee,gimmee two pensions,plus SS.

Sep 26, 2012 5:27PM
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So you people think the refs should volunteer their time?  This is a skilled postion requiring hours of studying and training as well as significant experience to do properly.  How can everybody sit there bitching about the bad calls the replacements made and how it could ruin certain teams chances of making the playoffs yet still say the regs are overpaid.  The truth of the matter is you could pay them double and they would still be under paid  for what they do and put up with on the field.
Sep 26, 2012 4:32PM
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They want $160k a year to referee a stupid game? Oh, course the fans paid $billion and the players each get $millions. What a stupid game of greed and violence. It's also a legalized monopoly. Just stop watching the crud and do something real.
Sep 26, 2012 3:59PM
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Is there any better example of why unions are good for you?  These guys will eventually be back on the job and keep more of their benefits than they would if they weren't unionized. The Romneys of the world just don't believe that you can't get as good a quality with the lowest bidder; Green Bay may feel differently, and if Wisconsin was a swing state before, hopefully this will be even more reason to vote for the side that believes in unions.
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