To the relief of fans, players and owners, the National Football League's (NFL) regular referees will return to work on Thursday after a deal was struck to end a damaging months-long lockout of unionized game officials.
The storm of criticism following a botched call that handed the Seattle Seahawks a victory at the expense of the Green Bay Packers on Monday added urgency to talks between the league and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) and a new eight-year deal was reached just before midnight on Wednesday.
"The owners appear to have grossly overestimated their bargaining power and underestimated the bargaining power of the referees," said Richard Sheehan, a University of Notre Dame finance professor who specializes in the economics of sports.
"Referees had the option, at least in the short-term, of not agreeing with whatever the NFL powers demanded,"
"The owners' arrogance and hubris led them to make a large wager that the referees' job was so easy that they could hire replacements and no one would notice. Unfortunately, fans noticed. If there was any doubt that the owners made an incredibly misinformed bet, the doubt was removed Monday night."