When doomsday never happened: MLS’s regular referees will be back this weekend

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The doomsday scenario that was replacement referees calling Major League Soccer games never happened. The matches weren’t ruined, nor did the officiating controversies didn’t disappear. It was almost as if the regular referees were completely fungible.

The Professional Referees Organization (PRO) obviously doesn’t feel the same way. On Tuesday, the organization that manages officials for Major League Soccer came to an agreement with the referees’ union: the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA). When the deal was ratified on Wednesday, the path was cleared for the league’s regular officials to resume work this weekend.

Early Thursday morning, Steve Taylor, PSRA’s lead negotiator, confirmed the deal. From Taylor’s statement, as reported by Chris Kamrani and The Salt Lake Tribune:

“PSRA is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with PRO regarding an historic¬†Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for PSRA Bargaining Unit Members who make up the pool of Full-time and Part-time referees, Assistant Referees, and Fourth Officials working games in Major League Soccer. The agreement was reached at the bargaining table with the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Terms of the CBA are not being released.”

The major issues, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, concerned compensation, insurance, travel, and evaluation standards – pretty standard stuff, as far as these type of negotiations go. Though federal mediation had to bring the sides together, the lockout’s effect on the season was minimal. The replacements oversaw only 5 pct. of the season’s games.

We shouldn’t gloss over the personal toll here, though. A number of people were out of work while this thing played out. Even those who don’t use refereeing as their main source of income had to deal with the stress, uncertainty, and commitment that’s involved in any labor dispute. On the field, for us onlookers, the replacements may not have mattered. As of Wednesday, though, a lot of people can get back to their normal lives.

Though many saw replacement officials as a huge credibility hit, somehow, the league survived. Week three begins in 48 hours.