On the Tunney Side of the Street 48

by Jim Tunney


After further review...The National Football League games are now being officiated by the National Football League Referees Association officials. These are professional men who were selected and trained by the NFL officiating staff, yet who were "locked out" by NFL management during a negotiation impasse some four months ago. On-again, off-again meetings between management and labor were unproductive. Negotiations didn't step up until overmatched replacement officials put player safety and the league's reputation in jeopardy. An agreement has now been reached. Ok, but who did win?

The game of football won! While that statement sounds trite, it resounds with the truth. Negotiations of this magnitude are never easy and, believe me, these were very complex hinging largely on the structure of the pension plan for officials that was created nearly 40 years ago. It was both a financial and emotional issue, and it hardened attitudes on both sides. The NFLRA had to understand that management owns the NFL, not the officials. Management needed to understand that officials recruited and trained by them to be the very best are vital to the safety of the players and the integrity of the game.

Management improved its position by realizing that the quality of its product was being diminished. Sure, the "buyers" (e.g., the fans) were still going to the games and watching on television, but their frustration was building as they were not seeing the product they've been groomed to expect. Management felt that.

The NFLRA was victorious in the sense that the bond created by the lockout strengthened its organization as the 121 men stood together through it all-easier said than done. Building teams is easy when everything is going well, but a T*E*A*M's truest test is when push comes to shove. Coming together was a beginning; working together was progress; bonding together was success. In any negotiation both sides must focus on W-I-N - what's important now.

NFL football was the ultimate winner because the two sides realized that the quality of the game was suffering. The fans demand the best coaches and players, and they in turn deserve the best officials. As difficult as the experience for the replacement officials was, it is hoped that all sides, including the fans, have learned from it.

Will you make the W-I-N definition the major focus in your negotiations?