On the eve of the 2014 season, Major League Soccer and the Professional Referees Organization have locked out referees of the Professional Soccer Referees Association, according to the union’s vice president Steve Taylor. They will be substituted with replacement referees.
“As chair of the negotiating committee I am deeply saddened by PRO and Major League Soccer’s decision to lockout its officials in advance of the beginning of what could be a historic MLS season,” said Taylor, via email. “PSRA has worked tirelessly to reach an agreement, however we have been met with resistance since the beginning being forced to seek relief from the National Labor Relations Board on charges of bad faith bargaining and management threats against our Officials. Those charges remain pending.”
The lockout, which was put into effect at 11 AM EST, was the result of failed negotiations over the past year. “Although it is regrettable that the Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected PRO’s offer to continue with the current referees while negotiations continue, we have great confidence in the plan for replacement referees that PRO has put in place,” said MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott.
We’ve seen this work out poorly for other leagues, most recently in the National Football League two seasons ago. However, the replacement referees here were given a week’s worth of training in advance of the season debut to prepare themselves. “We have high confidence in the qualifications of our replacement officials and can ensure our fans, clubs and players that all games will be officiated at a professional standard that protects the integrity of our matches and the safety of our players,” said PRO general manager Peter Walton.
The replacement referees are a mixture of FIFA referees, former MLS referees, and referees from other professional leagues in the United States. It sounds as if their transition into MLS won’t be as difficult as it was for the replacement referees in the NFL two seasons ago. But the lockout, regardless of how well these ref’s fare, is a black eye for the league trying to make a good name for itself.
VISUAL CONTEXT: SOME OF MLS’ BEST REFEREES WILL BE ON THE SIDELINES TO START THE SEASON