The NFL should get rid of referees


by Cash Lee, Staff Reporter

After Sunday’s AFC Conference Championship game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs, it’s become clear the National Football League has to make a change. The change is eliminating the power referees currently have. 

Bengals fans are furious and claim the game, and possibly the league, is rigged due to a few controversial calls. This seems to be an annual occurrence around playoff time in the NFL.

Whether you’re one of those Bengals fans, a Saints fan, a Cowboys fan, or any other team, you can probably think of a game where a ref’s decision resulted in your team losing a game. We know that mistakes happen, but game after game? Year after year?

After the game, NFL fans took to Twitter saying things like, “I wish referees could just, ya know, do their job.” Regardless of whom they cheer for, fans of the NFL have even begun to seriously wonder if the league is fixed. 

This is terrible publicity for the organization and removing refs from the league would alleviate some of the issues. The question is, is it possible to play without refs, or would that result in complete mayhem?

I think there are many other routes the NFL could take to address officiating games. One way could be relying on technology and data analyzers to monitor penalties. Systems like this have been tested in baseball for calling balls and strikes, with the MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently proposing to use them in the 2024 season. 

With a net worth of over $30 billion, the NFL could afford to have systems designed to call mundane penalties, and then have a crew in a studio elsewhere reviewing plays for more unique penalties like unnecessary roughness or excessive celebration. The NFL already relies on reviews from outside sources to make crucial decisions, so why couldn’t those people be in charge from the beginning?

This route may be a reach, but why can’t we allow fans to vote in real time on what they think the call should be? Have a QR code pop up on the screen that sends you to a page allowing you to vote whether there was a penalty or not.

Every NFL game already generates thousands of tweets from people thinking they can officiate better than NFL refs, so why not let them prove it? Yes, votes might be biased pending on what team has more viewers, but what’s wrong with leaving it up to people who have a passion for the sport? People love watching their favorite teams, and a lot of the time, referees completely ruin the game. These referees are trying to hold players accountable for mistakes they make, but who’s holding the referees responsible? 

Some people have suggested that increasing the number of referees on the field from 7 to 9 would allow refs to focus on smaller portions of the field, allowing them to make better calls. 

This isn’t the solution, however, because refs are missing calls that happen right in front of their faces.

The move away from referees makes sense because right now the NFL has the lowest amount of referees they’ve had in years. They currently have 122 officials, and the number continues to decline. The amount of criticisms NFL refs face has caused them to begin retiring sooner, and fewer young people entering the profession. 

Going away from referees might also mean teams get more credit for being good. Talent would win games rather than a call made by officials. Whether or not a change is realistic or possible is unknown, but what is known is that NFL referees can be trash at their jobs. I’m sure they try their best most of the time, but we know it’s impossible to make every single call correctly. Regardless of how outlandish these options seem now, something needs to change in the future to limit game-changing calls.