The 2014 MLS season begins on Saturday, but the matches will start without the help of the regular referees.
The Professional Soccer Referees of America (PSRA), who normally take charge of the games, have failed to come to terms with the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) on what would’ve been their first collective bargaining agreement. Due to that failure, the PRO have made the decision to lock out the PSRA – less than 24 hours before the MLS games are due to start. The lockout will end when a CBA is reached.
Until that time, replacement referees will be used, all of whom have officiated professional matches in the past. Some are former MLS officials, others have previously refereed for other leagues. With such a situation in mind, all replacement officials attended a preseason training camp last week, and the PRO maintains that they are highly qualified professionals.
The PRO stated that it presented a reasonable alternative that would have avoided a work stoppage. “We had suggested a no strike/no lockout agreement for a reasonable period in an effort to keep the negotiations going but that was rejected by the PSRA”, said PRO General Manager Peter Walton. “Since they will not give us a guarantee they will not go on strike immediately prior to our matches, we are left in a position where we must use replacement officials to ensure that the MLS games are played as scheduled this weekend.”