by Paul Reeths
May 22, 2006 - National Indoor Football League (NIFL)
The National Football League has confirmed that it has not renewed its officiating agreement with the National Indoor Football League for this season. NIFL referees were trained and supervised by the NFL during the 2005 campaign.
"We previously had a relationship with the NIFL," stated NFL spokesman Jon Zimmer. "However, our officiating department has informed me that we did not continue that relationship this season. We no longer have a relationship with them."
Zimmer's statement confirmed reports received by OurSports Central since January indicating the NFL would not work with the NIFL after last season. Despite claims to the contrary over the last four months, the NIFL was unable to furnish proof that the agreement would be continued in 2006, and the NFL ended all speculation late last week.
"The relationship no longer exists," said Zimmer on Thursday.
Under the agreement, the NFL selected, trained and scheduled NIFL officials. The indoor league's officials worked under a regional supervisor whose job it was to administrate and grade each of the officiating crews.
NIFL media relations manager Morris Groves declined to answer any questions about the officiating agreement, and instead directed all inquiries to league counsel D. Randy Wagley.
While hoping to renew the agreement earlier this year, Wagley admitted that the NFL had not been satisfied with the deal.
"I received a fax forwarded from (NIFL President) Carolyn (Shiver) on NFL letterhead. It basically acknowledged some things that needed to be done relative to the partnership last year," Wagley said. "We had some problems and some things needed to be addressed."
One problem may have been that as of January, five months after the conclusion of the 2005 season, several NIFL officials were still reportedly owed money for their work last season.
When asked if he knew of any officials who hadn't been paid, Frank Kosman, the NIFL's Supervisor of Officials for the East Region in 2005, said, "Yes, but from what I understand the commissioner of the NIFL is taking care of that. She hasn't as yet, though. I believe that may be one of the reasons the NFL broke off the relationship."
Kosman served as one of four regional supervisors last season. His responsibilities included observing officials firsthand, grading game tapes, and sending reports and video to the NFL for further input.
Wagley stated that he did not know the nature of the problems because he only recently began working with the league, but added that he believed it was important to the NIFL that the issues are worked out.
"We see it as a big feather in our cap to have a relationship with them," he said.
The NIFL has struggled to the midway point of the 2006 season. Sixteen of its 22 teams are expansion or relocated franchises, or are under new ownership. The Palm Beach franchise has played only on the road after failing to secure a home venue, and other teams have been forced to postpone games due to unpaid bills. The Dayton franchise was recently evicted from its home arena, and reports of unpaid players and staff have appeared in several NIFL cities as well.
Despite the NFL's decision to not renew the officiating deal with the indoor league, the NIFL continues to display the NFL crest logo on its website under the headline "NFL Partnership" along with a paragraph about the 2005 agreement. The NIFL website does not mention that the deal has not been renewed. Websites for the NIFL's Arkansas, Greensboro, Florida (Fort Lauderdale), Lincoln, Palm Beach, Tennessee (Chattanooga) and Twin City (Monroe, La.) teams also display the NFL logo prominently even though all are either new or relocated franchises this season and, with the exception of Lincoln, were not party to last year's agreement.
Some of the league's more established franchises such as Billings, Tri-Cities, Wyoming, RiverCity and Lakeland do not display the NFL logo or mention any continued connection between the leagues.
The league did not respond to phone calls and email inquiries asking why the logo remained on the website.