Major League Soccer

Report: Replacement referees to continue officiating MLS matches in Week 2

Andres Pfefferkorn

Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com


Get ready for Round 2 of MLS replacement referees.

According to a report from SI.com, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and Professional Soccer Referees Associating (PRSA) have yet to come to a resolution to end the regular league officials’ lockout and that means that another week of replacement referees is in store for MLS. PRO and PRSA were scheduled to continue their negotiations on Tuesday, but the meeting to do so was canceled by PRO.

“PSRA is disappointed to report that PRO has unilaterally canceled yet another scheduled negotiation session for today, Tuesday, March 11, 2014,” said PSRA negotiations leader and vice president Steve Taylor. “Additionally, PRO has removed all match assignments from PSRA officials for week 2 of the MLS regular season, effectively continuing the lockout of the referees. It is unknown at this time when PRO will agree to resume talks as required by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).”

The news should come as no surprise given all that has been reported on both sides in recent weeks, but it also means that replacement officiating crews will be back after a largely uneventful, and positive, opening weekend.

There were a few controversial calls during Week 1, such as ones in FC Dallas’ win over the Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake’s triumph vs. the LA Galaxy, but there is seldom a round of MLS action that goes without some degree of debate over referee decisions.

As for PRO and PSRA, things are getting pretty ugly. Aside from PRO canceling Tuesday’s negotiating session, a document on the referee’s unions website lambastes the replacement officials by providing brief bios that are not meant to be complimentary.

It also labels the replacement officials as scabs, which is defined at the top of the document as someone who works during a lockout. The definition also comes with this quote from deceased American author and journalist Jack London:

“The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer. Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country. A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.”


What do you make of this development? Think the drop-off from the regular officials to the replacement referees is not a big one? Are the replacements bound to start making more controversial calls? Do you envision the labor dispute getting resolved in the near future?

Share your thoughts below.

  • soccerhorn

    This is going to get ugly. It is only a question of time before something shockingly bad calls attention to this whole mess. The blown call in the RSL game will be just the tip of the iceberg.

    Level four MLS refs get what, $900 a game? And the AR’s get maybe $300 a game if they’re lucky? What a joke. No wonder we’re complaining about them week in and week out. They’re more or less supporting their careers on their own dime. Pay them some decent money and maybe they’ll improve.


    • Rex

      Sorry but this isnt the NFL; there really isnt any call that is atrocious enough to be something that most MLS fans havent already seen over the last few years. I do agree that at the end of the day they should be compensated well as long as it comes with legitimate accountability.


    • Eric B

      A vast majority of the world’s best referees (and most NFL officials) don’t do this as a career, this is a hobby. A pretty expensive one, but it’s a side activity nonetheless.


      • Horsewhistle

        FIFA NA requires their officials to be available full time (2013). These are most experienced members of the PSRA.


  • Gerard D.


    Who wouldn’t want Champions League referees officiating their MLS match? The games I watched were so much better officiated than any MLS games I can remember watching.

    It’s amazing how much better a game looks and feels when the referee actually calls the rough play we’re used to.


    • Yo-Joe

      I also think the tone set by the replacements in the 2 games I watched were a big improvement. Whenever the regular refs return, I hope they step up their quality and continue to control the rough play.


    • Horsewhistle

      -1, do you really want foreign nationals officiating our league? We support homegrown players, why wouldn’t we support growth and excellence of our officials. That’s why you only have one US/Canada official in WC this year and none last year. This will not improve with the position you are stating.

      Besides, MLS/PRO is not going to be compensating a champions league level official. That is why we are in this mess.


      • Horsewhistle

        -last World Cup.
        Last year no one officiated a World Cup.


      • solles

        ? “foregin nationals” have been reffing MLS games since 1996.


      • Horsewhistle

        And foreign nationals play in our league but there is still a homegrown policy. So you would prefer foreign officials over US/Canada officials?


      • away goals

        All things being equal I’d prefer the best officials available.

        Meanwhile continue grooming american referees in the lower leagues until they meet the “best” criteria.


      • CeezNYRB

        Racist much? No one you’re responding to mentioned anything about “foreign” officials, just “regular” officials and “replacements”.

        What is wrong with you?! Check yourself, kid.


      • Horsewhistle

        Learn to read and get your facts right. The former champions league level and retired FIFA official is a foreigner as noted in the SI article. I am responding to to his preference towards a “champion league” quality official.

        There’s no kid here, so unless you want to wreck yourself end you hyperbole or get the facts right.


      • solles

        he certainly tries already, has there ever been a call he didnt like that he didnt whine and complain and throw his arms around for?


  • Bill Brasky

    I keep imagining a frustrated Mark Geiger or Jorge Gonzalez needlessly giving cards to the people that they encounter during their every lives through the work stoppage (i.e. – their dry cleaners, mail carriers, cashiers, etc.).


  • patrick

    while the officiating in Week 1 was, by most estimates an improvement, that doesn’t mean it will continue. There are more games next week, which means they need to come up with more refs, and at some point, the guys you’re bringing in will NOT be an improvement over the MLS refs.


  • Huh?

    So these games were well officiated and they called the rough play? How many missed red cards do you see in this video??


  • beto

    Ugly mess any time the words lockouts and scabs get thrown around regardless of the situation

    That said the replacement refs we not bad at all.


  • Jeff

    Scabs… Whatever! What did these wise guys think was going to happen, the league was gonna shut down. Refs make sh$t, it sucks but that’s how it goes. I don’t make as much as would like but if I refuse to work someone else is going to take my place. I either accept or I get another job. Why don’t they publish their specific demands, then we can see who is being unreasonable.


    • Keith

      The fact that all media accounts are terming this a “lock out” and not a “strike” seems to indicate a willingness (even if a grudging one) to work under existing contract terms while negotiations continue. The (very limited) media reports I’ve read seem to indicate that PRO fears a disruptive strike (ie- officials walking off the pitch just prior to kickoff) so they are proactively locking out the union.
      So, yeah, ugly stuff on both sides here; the PDF is simply childish and sad. But I don’t think you’re being fair in your “what did these wise guys think was going to happen…” statement. They are calling out the replacements as scabs, which is more or less technically correct. It’s also childish. But I don’t think they are expecting the league to shut down. They seem to be wanting to work and hoping to negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to both sides. PRO walking away from the table is just as ugly as the unions scab list, really.


      • Horsewhistle

        This is an ugly situation, agreed. Apparently, PRO has not compromised on any position and never was at the table in a bargaining sense. it appears they feel they have the upper hand by locking out the union and not engaging PSRA. A union that had to form due to requirements under a newly formed PRO in 2012.


  • Joamiq

    The refs don’t have much leverage here. Why doesn’t MLS just hire the replacement refs long term?

    And isn’t a “scab” someone who breaks with a union to work during a strike? This isn’t a strike. PRSA’s whole “scab” attack just comes off as silly. They couldn’t even come up with blurbs for some of those guys. And having no MLS experience is certainly not a blemish on these guys’ resumes.


  • solles

    leaving the troubling labor issues to the side for the moment, I thought the scab refs were actually pretty good last weekend on the whole, certainly no worse than the regular guys.


  • yameson

    What is lost in this discussion so far about whether the scab refs did a good job or not, is that this is a labor dispute, and it is about people’s livelihoods and their ability to do their jobs. Management locked out the refs union and replaced them with scab labor–and scab is the correct term.

    This is prelude to next year. Make no mistake. If the owners are successful in beating up the ref’s union, they will be emboldened to take on the players’ union in next year’s negotiations. Will these message boards be full of comments concerning whether the replacement players are as good as the “real” players?

    MLS, to its credit, has established itself for the long game, and has in the past worked with various entities to make the league and the product on the field better. And one of the things they did was to engage with this union to continue professionalizing and further legitimizing league play. Today, they are testing the limits of that relationship. They are seeing how this relatively minor dispute (relative to players union disputes) will play out, and they are gathering information and gauging reaction so that tomorrow (next March, actually), they will know how far they can go to keep down the players union. They are also looking for our reaction–the fans. They think we don’t care and are too stupid to notice. (I hope that’s not true)

    I am a season ticket holder and huge Red Bulls fan, but I will not be attending the home opener tonight–WHICH IS KILLING ME. They already have my season ticket money, but I don’t have to participate. I would urge anyone who agrees with what I’ve written here to also stay away today, and write to their teams to explain why. As long as there are butts in the seats and the debate is over whether this week’s refs avoided another spectacular gaffe, management will continue the lockout, and continue not to deal with the refs union.
    –James McCrone, Section 128


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