NEWS: MLS Referees Locked Out
The Professional Referee Organization has locked out the regular MLS referees as of March 7. The March 8 and 9 opening games will go ahead with replacement referees.
On February 22, Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA), the union that represents referees in US and Canada, voted to authorize a strike. Their big beef has been with the organization MLS created to manage their apparently unruly refs: the Professional Referee Organization (PRO).
PSRA says PRO hasn’t been acting in good faith. PRO countered that they are very far apart, particularly on compensation.
The PRO will use replacement referees they hastily pulled out of their, let’s say hat, and tossed into a training this past week.
(Because that sounds like a fantastic way to make people feel better about the refereeing standard in MLS.)
The big ask is, frankly, more money. Right now, the very top level of referees make around $875 per match as a center referee, $495 as an assistant, and $285 for fourth officials. If the very best MLS referee worked all 34 matches in the center, he’d make less than $30K a year. That’s not really full time in most of the US.
To give you some idea of the disparity, Premier League referees are paid a retainer of about $64,000 and, with match fees, they can average over $100K. The Serie A referees are similar, with a story just out about how Serie A pays over 5 million euros a year for their referees.
It makes sense: If you want referees of the highest level, you have to pay them for it.
In addition, the referees are asking for:
- Compensation insurance in case of injury
- Performance standards and evaluations
- Fitness standards and testing
- Travel standards
In other words, they want to be treated like professionals.
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I’ve been watching this, waiting to see what was going to happen. There’s a lot of conflicting information floating around regarding the negotiations and all of that – PRO locked out the PSRA refs, PRO offered to use the regular refs while negotiations continue (that’s the story at MLSsoccer.com), PSRA refs chose to strike, etc. I hope it gets sorted out quickly and the refs get better pay, etc.
PRO is saying that they wanted a “no strike/no lockout” agreement, and PSRA wouldn’t accept it. They claim that they couldn’t be sure that the referees wouldn’t strike, so they had no choice but to lock them out. I call shenanigans, but whatever. I’m worried about how this affects Geiger and his team. There are only so many “warm ups” before Brazil.