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Ryan Morgan: The integrity of the game and player safety is being compromised by the NFL

The integrity of the game and player safety is being compromised by the NFL  It has become abundantly clear to everyone watching football that the game is being compromised by the replacement referees.  The replacement referees simply do not have the ability to enforce the rules of the NFL.  The players realize they can break the rules and get away with it — as a result more injuries will occur.  Therefore, player safety has emerged as a major concern related to the negotiating impasse between the NFL and the real referees.

In a stark contrast with the manner which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acted in adjudicating the Saints bounty scandal – with the integrity of the game and player safety was in jeopardy – the league has dragged its feet in negotiating and coming to terms for a new collective bargaining agreement with its referees.  In a $9 billion annual revenue league, the difference between the NFL and referees association compensation packages sits at a relatively paltry $45 million.  Pension reform and “standby” referees are points of contention but should not prove insurmountable hurdles to an agreement.  The ultimate questions are (a) what is a player’s safety worth and (b) how much does the league value fan confidence in the outcomes of its games.  The league’s popularity is at an all-time high and the NFL would be foolish not to reach an agreement soon with its referees before long term damage to the sport is done and league revenues begin to decrease.

The NFL has shown, as recently as last year during the lockout, that when push comes to shove and the quality of the product and corresponding league wide revenue begin to suffer, the league will find a way to reach an agreement with the other side – in the lockout they held firm and waited for players to feel the pressure of lost paychecks.  The players association and NFL were “far apart” on key negotiation points a couple weeks before the scheduled start of training camp last year, but came to an agreement very quickly when the threat of losing regular season games became a reality.

If fans voice their opinions (decreased attendance, decreased television viewer ratings) and league wide revenue suffers as a result, you can rest assured that the impasse will end as quickly. The league needs to feel the impact of lost revenues before they will be prompted to act.

If the integrity of the game is truly important to the NFL, the owners and Roger Goodell will figure out a way to get their real referees back on the field.

Ryan Morgan is the CEO of Morgan Advisory Group, LLC.

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