The National Football League will hire and train replacement referees after talks with the union representing officials stalled.
The NFL said in a statement that it will “proceed immediately” with finding replacements for the U.S.’s most-popular sport, which is scheduled to begin in September.
“Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games,” the league said.
The NFL said it would “continue to be available” for negotiations with the NFL Referees Association under the supervision of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington. The old contract ended at the end of May.
Mike Arnold, lead negotiator for the referees’ union, said the NFL ended talks after two sessions with the federal agency and never intended to work out a fair agreement.
“It is unfortunate that as referees’ responsibilities are expanded that the NFL would jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game by seeking amateur, under qualified referees to administer professional games,” Arnold said in a separate statement.
The NFL said it offered referees more money.
“We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials,” the league said.