Greg Aiello Is ‘Confident’ That Replacement Officials Will Get Better, Claims It’s Feasible To Have NFL Team In London

September 24, 2012 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce

Greg Aiello has never been afraid of sharing his opinion on the replacement referee issue dating back to August. The NFL spokesman understands why the fans and players are frustrated with the ongoing dispute between referees and the NFL.

Reports surfaced last night that the two sides were still far apart in their negotiations. At the same time, a national audience was taking in an officiating performance that had the crowd in Baltimore providing “the loudest manure chant I’ve ever heard,” as Al Michaels so eloquently put it.

Greg Aiello joined 98.7 The Fan in Tampa with Anthony “Booger” McFarland to discuss the NFL’s evaluation of the replacement officials through Week 2, NFL fans who believe the league is putting up a senseless fight with the officials over hundreds of thousands of dollars, having no doubt that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty program in place and the NFL expanding with possible new teams in Los Angeles and London.

How does the NFL feel about the replacement referees and the job they are doing?

“It’s game to game, just like it is with every team with the officials every year. [Thursday] night they did very well and officiating wasn’t an issue. We hope that will continue. We are working very hard, our officiating group with the officials, every week to correct mistakes and get their performance to the highest level possible. We understand some people are frustrated, but we are in a serious dispute with our regular officials and we’d like to get that resolved, but they could come back to work at any time if they would reach an agreement. We’re offering them an increase in compensation and they want more. It’s a [proposal] that averages $150,000 dollars a year for a part-time job basically. They all have other careers. We’re offering to increase that, but they want more, so we are not going to make a deal that we don’t think is reasonable or make sense. Meanwhile we will continue to work with the current officials we have and we are confident they will continue to get better.”

What do you say to the fans who believe the NFL is a billion-dollar business and they are fighting with the refs over hundreds of thousands of dollars? What message does that send?

“Well it’s much more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s multi millions. It’s more like $70 million difference and you have to be smart about the way you run a business. It is a business and the players. There’s a lot of expenses in running the operation starting with the players, who get the most money, and they should, and then you got coaches and you got everything else and then we have game officials, so we have great respect for them. We want them to be fairly compensated. We think they are for the amount of work they do. They have just been unwilling to be reasonable about it in our way, so right now we are stuck in this dispute, but I think many of the games the replacement officials are doing a good job. They are making good calls. They are throwing flags on the safety rules. We don’t buy that player safety has been compromised. There’s going to be a focus this week on game control and controlling the players. I think you saw some of it last night and it’s the result of what happened in the Atlanta game. We don’t want things getting out of hand. We don’t want fights or brawls. We’ve had that kind of thing in the past with the regular officials. We don’t want it ever, so we are going to keep at it.”

Why do you say there is no question a bounty program was being run by the Saints?

“Cause the evidence is overwhelming, as we’ve said a number of times, and we’ve shared that. A bounty, so that people understand, means that players were being rewarded with cash payments, that they put up the money themselves for hits or for plays that resulted in an opposing player being injured. There were payments for what they call ‘cart offs,’ if a player was carted off or if he was knocked out — well, if a player was carted off or he was knocked out or if he was injured.Well those were the plays that resulted in the highest payments and that’s totally against our rules and it’s something that is dangerous and something the commissioner is looking at from the perspective of all the other players. If you were playing, you don’t want somebody putting up a price on your head and so it’s a long-standing rule, and we discovered in our investigation overwhelming evidence, information that was corroborated by multiple independent sources with first-hand knowledge. People who are in meetings who said, several people who said it happened and also documented information on paper going through the records and other documents that clearly establishes that there was a program. So the team was disciplined as you know. The coach, the general manager and then the commissioner disciplines four of the players who were involved and they’ve challenged it and we’re in the middle of that process, both through the CBA discipline process — a process that the players agreed to where the commissioner makes a decision and here’s the appeal. They’re also challenging in court, so there’s a way to go on this, but the bottom line is this is something that shouldn’t be or can’t be part of our game and the commissioner took a strong stand on that to protect overall players safety.”

Talk about the NFL growing its product and expanding the game into Los Angeles or even Europe?

“We have a series of regular season games now in London, as you probably know. Tampa played in it a couple of years ago. I was there. It wasn’t a very good game against the Patriots, so we play an annual game in London that’s been very successful and we may, next year, increase that to two games. That’s been very successful in increasing interests in the UK and in Europe for NFL football and at least we question: Could there be an NFL team in London some day? Our answer is that it is feasible because of the time, based on where it is located, the time difference is about five-hour trip from the east coast, so it could be done. Could there be a team in London some day? Yes there could. It’s not something we are actively considering, but the way we reach people throughout is media and with media technology today we have NFL games on all over the world and particularly strong in Mexico, Europe and parts of Asia. That’s how we are growing the game. The Buffalo Bills are playing an annual game up in Toronto, as you probably know. Expansion is not something being considered at this point, but some day there will be more NFL teams and we certainly want to get back to Los Angeles and that’s an active priority with things taking place in Los Angeles that give us hope that we will be able to get a stadium and a team there in the not-too-distant future.”

Listen to Greg Aiello on 98.7 The Fan in Tampa here

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