NFL referees approve new 8-year contract


Referees approved the contract by a 112-5 vote in Irving, Texas, ending a lockout that led to a rising chorus of complaints from players, coaches and fans.

Replacement referees have been filling in for the first three weeks of the season. They will still get a paycheck this weekend without working. The league will spend nearly $350,000 to pay the more than 100 referees, who came under fire after making several questionable calls, including a disputed touchdown call that decided Monday night's Packers-Seahawks game.

Refs called a touchdown catch for the Seahawks instead of a Packers interception. Most of the replacement refs came from the lower divisions of college football and other leagues.

With a tentative deal in place, league referees returned to cheers at Thursday night's game between Cleveland and Baltimore. The tentative contract called for refs' salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years' service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen. Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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