America's latest existential crisis is over.
Regular NFL referees were due back in action at last night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, after national outcry forced chastened League owners to strike a hasty deal to end the lock-out of the officials. The provisional deal – which both sides are expected to ratify in the next couple of days – ends a three-and-a-half-month dispute that had seen error-strewn replacement referees brought in.
The new eight-year deal is understood to resolve the main sticking points between the sides: the referees' demand for a modest increase in pay and the preservation of their existing pension scheme, and the owners' efforts to have a system in which under-performing referees could be suspended.
There are only 120 regular referees, earning some $150,000 (£92,500) over the course of the regular season. Settling the dispute will have cost a few million dollars at most, little more than a rounding error when set against the NFL's $9bn of annual revenues.