(WFRV) - In a much anticipated move by football fans, Thursday the NFL agreed to bring regular officials back.
Replacement refs have been the focal point of much frustration over the first three weeks of the season.
That frustration came to a breaking point on Monday night during the Packers and Seahawks game.
The fill-in officials missed an offensive pass interference call and rewarded the Seahawks a game winning touchdown catch to beat the Packers.
Players, fans and NFL experts nationwide begged for something to be done. But starting Thursday night, the real NFL referees are back to officiate a game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
The tentative deal with the refs must still be ratified by 51% of the union's 121 members. A vote is planned for Friday.
The arraigned agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. The tentative deal calls for the officials' salaries to increase from an average $149,000 a year in 2011, to $173,000 in 2013. Their salaries will eventually rise to $205,000 by 2019.
The new deal would keep the ref's current benefit pension plan in place through the 2016 season or until the office earns 20 years' service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials starting in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.
Under the proposed agreement, beginning in 2013, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full time basis. They would work all year round, including their duties on the field.