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Replacement referees to start season; union, NFL break off negotiations

NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello talks to reporters after

NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello talks to reporters after a meeting with NFL owners at a hotel in Chantilly, Va. Photo Credit: AP, 2011

Any hope of the NFL's regular officials settling their labor deal in time for the start of the regular season likely dissolved Saturday, as negotiations with the league broke off and no new talks appeared imminent.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials met with union officials, including chief negotiator Mike Arnold, in New York. But after a morning negotiating session, the talks ended without a deal. Barring an unexpected resumption of talks, the league will use replacement officials for the first week of the season. Replacement officials were used for all preseason games.

The Giants and Cowboys begin the season on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium.

"Commissioner Goodell and other NFL staff members concluded three days of talks [Saturday] with representatives of the NFLRA without reaching an agreement," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "No further talks are scheduled. We are proceeding with the replacement officials."

Arnold acknowledged in a statement that talks had ended without significant progress.

"We met with the NFL [Saturday] morning and discussed various potential solutions to reach a new collective bargaining agreement," he said. "Unfortunately we were unable to reach any agreement. We are disappointed because it means that our members will not be back on the field for Week 1 of the regular season due to the NFL's continuing lockout. We remain willing to negotiate with the NFL in order to reach a fair agreement. However, no additional meetings are scheduled at this time."

The league was willing to offer more money to officials, but there was no agreement on the union's pension plan. The league wants to replace it with a modified plan that would eliminate a defined benefit for retired officials. However, the league is willing to continue the pension plan for current officials, while eliminating it for officials hired in the future. The two sides also disagree on staffing levels. The union wants to keep the current lineup of 121 officials, while the league wants to add 21 officials.

New York Sports