If you watched Monday Night Football's blown call on the final play of the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game, you have to wonder how much longer the National Football League executives can continue to utilize replacement referees. If you didn't see it, click here:  http://current-affairs-video.blogspot.com.  So many others have said it already that I won’t belabor the point, but if you saw the angry reactions of the players and coaches you know that these temporary referees are hurting the NFL’s “product”. 

Sure, the players are not behaving like angels, but their jobs are on the line weekly and they’re looking to exploit every advantage they can.  Inevitably, fights break out as one side tries to exert its will.  I spoke to a friend who attended the Baltimore-New England game on Sunday evening and he complained that “the game just took forever.”  Twenty-four penalties will do that.  Coaches grabbing referees after blown calls.  These officials have lost control of the games.  My friend said he’s not going to another game.  

Do you think the NFL has a PR problem?  A marketing problem?  The twitter-verse blew up last night and there are surveys all over the internet gauging fan reactions, all of which are extremely negative.  There are tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of fans who won’t watch next week.  Yet, the NFL remains stolid in the face of the criticism.  A highly popular, well run organization with unending revenue streams, rather full of itself – on top of the world.  Sound familiar?  It doesn’t matter how big and successful you are and how much money you make.  If you ignore your customers, at some point you will pay the price.  Anyone remember Enron? 

It’s no secret that gamblers across the world like to bet on the NFL.  An article on ESPN.com estimated that somewhere between $150 million to $250 million changed hands based on that missed call.  If a swing like that can happen in ONE game on one really bad call, imagine if professional “influencers” get involved to sway the calls of these lower paid replacement refs.  Can you say credibility problems?

I’m not suggesting that the NFL is going out of business anytime soon.  Certainly the league and the referees’ union have to work out a deal that satisfies both parties, but if this abomination continues, will the NFL still have all of its customers left?  If an organization as well run as the NFL, the marquee sports league in the United States, can take its eye off the ball – or its customers – imagine what smaller organizations can do to their customers?

Are you listening to the voice of YOUR customers?