The Professional Referees Organization — the entity that manages officials for Major League Soccer — conducted a camp for potential replacement referees last week, a move that underscored the current tensions between the referees’ union (Professional Soccer Referees Association) and PRO. Four days ahead of season openers, the need for those replacements grows, with a PSRA spokesman saying he expects his union’s members to be locked out ahead of this weekend’s games.
Steven Goff at the Washington Post has the whole story, one in which the PSRA’s lead negotiator confirmed management “threatened a lockout.” Steve Taylor also said “I expect that call later today from Peter Walton” – the general manager of PRO.
In his mid-day YouTube Q-and-A, league commissioner Don Garber confirmed MLS had established contingencies should the league’s first choice officials be unable to officiate this weekend’s games. MLS opens its season with seven games on Saturday and an eighth on Sunday, a schedule that would require 32 officials to cover the entire slate.
Fans are always debating whether Major League Soccer has reached the big-time., but these types of struggles are a symptom of that growth. Given referee disputes impinge the four major sports leagues, it shouldn’t be surprising to see similar conflicts hinder Major League Soccer.
As with football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, this one seems destined to be resolved. Whether that resolution will be here by Saturday is another question entirely.
After five hours of negotiations on Monday were followed by another four-hour session on Tuesday, Taylor was left with little hope. From the Post:
“They have not made any significant movement in our direction on economic or non-economic issues that are still outstanding,” Taylor said after four hours of meetings in New York. The sides also met for five hours Monday. No additional meetings are scheduled this week.