The ongoing effort to improve Major League Soccer refereeing – and to some extent, officiating for international matches in our part of the world – recently took a nice, long stride forward.
In March, Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer announced creation of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). Its mission: increase the quality of officiating in U.S. and Canadian professional leagues, develop more professional quality officials at a younger age and develop officials who will represent the United States and Canada in FIFA competitions.
The man in charge, the “North American Referee Czar,” is English Premier League veteran referee Peter Walton. He’s 52 years old but was still manning middles in EPL contests just four months ago.
These are great developments for Major League Soccer. Quality of officiating has long been an open wound in the league, one that’s only now getting the proper bandaging, stitching, etc.
One element frequently lacking in MLS referees is a more sophisticated feel for nuance, a more layered understanding of the speedy swirl happening around them in matches. It’s not easy to develop, so it’s Walton’s job to help expedite the process. To wit:
Refs must recognize when the center half and forward are not getting on well or spot the little Scottish ginger-haired midfielder — there’s one in every game — who wants to ref the match for you.”
Yes, Peter, we have some of those, and they generally operate with impunity. And we have some others who aren’t just tedious and bothersome, but who would do real harm, too.
So be warned ye hitters, haters and hackers: Peter Walton is at the con.