NFL clubs and players meet mediator over agreement

Image caption, The NFL is a multibillion dollar business

The National Football League and the players' union, the NFLPA, have started a federal mediation process in their disagreement over working arrangements.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and players ends on 4 March and talks have stalled.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service(FMCS) has been directing talks.

The negotiations cover wages, drug testing, health and pension benefits, and plans to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games.

Earlier this month the club owners filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the players' union.

The FMCS is an independent government agency to help preserve and encourage harmony in worker-management discussions.

A joint statement said the two groups had met George Cohen, director of the FMCS, in Washington.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith attended the session, but neither side commented on progress.

Mr Cohen has asked both sides to not make public comments about the process.

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covers the financial framework of top-level American football, a thriving, multibillion dollar business.

However, NFL owners say their profit margins are being squeezed and want to modify distribution of annual revenues of $9bn (£5.5bn).

Currently, the players get about 61% of the NFL revenue, after a $1bn credit in favour of the owners is subtracted.

The owners want to see this arrangement rebalanced.

If an agreement cannot be reached, there is the possibility the club owners could lock out the players from their stadiums and facilities and shut down the game.

That would mean empty stadiums and blank TV screens when the 2011 NFL competition is scheduled to restart again on Thursday, 8 September.

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