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NFL to employ full-time referees for the first time in 2017

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The league and the referees association have reached an agreement.

The NFL has seen some drastic changes over the past few seasons. Be in terms of on-field rules like the 33-yard extra point attempt, off-field rules like the alterations of injured reserve or roster-cutdowns, or the technological assistance of tablets used on the sidelines, the league has taken some big steps towards modernizing the game.

Yesterday, another one has been taken: As first reported by Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer and later confirmed by an NFL-NFLRA joint press release, the league plans to hire 21 to 24 full-time officials for the 2017 season. It will be the first time in league history that referees, who have to apply for the jobs, will be employed by the NFL.

According to the release, each of the seven officiating positions will see between one and five full-time hires, with at least one such referee working on each of the 17 crews. The up to 24 officials will serve as a link between their crews and the league offices and also work closely with the NFL's committees during the offseason.

Back in 2013, according to footballzebras.com, the league already tried to hire three officials as full-time employees. However, execution of the plan was prevented by the NFLRA due to concerns about union protections. Now, it appears that both sides have been able to reach an agreement under a new collective bargaining agreement.