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March 7, 2014 at 9:31 AM

MLS will begin season with referee work stoppage, replacement refs in place

Professional Referee Organization (PRO), the group that oversees officiating in the United States and Canada, has decided to lock out its referees effective at 8 a.m. Friday morning. PRO and the Professional Soccer Referees Associations (the referees union) have been in contentious negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement for a while now.

There will be replacement referees used during the opening weekend, and here are those assigned to the Sounders FC-Sporting Kansas City game:

Referee Alan Kelly, former FIFA Ireland. Currently lives in the United States.
Assistant referee Dimitar Chadarav – MLS Reserve, NWSL
Assistant referee Kyle Longville – MLS Preseason

According to the league website, Kelly refereed five FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Europe and three UEFA Champions League games before moving to the U.S. in 2013

Here are some quotes from PRO general manager Peter Walton from the statement on the organization website:

“We have made a substantial proposal to the Professional Soccer Referees Association and believe it is very fair and reasonable,. Our proposal represents a significant increase above current compensation for referees and places them above the average for officials around the world.  We are disappointed it has been rejected.”

“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. 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.”

“We have high confidence in the qualifications of our replacement officials and can ensure our fans, clubs and players that all games will be officiated at a professional standard that protects the integrity of our matches and the safety of our players.”

Here is a response provided to me by Lucas Middlebrook, who is representing the PRSA:

PRO’s release is misleading in the extreme.  PSRA has been forced for many months to negotiate in the dark.  We have requested a plethora of information, including financials, that PRO and MLS have refused to provide instead demanding we take their pleas of poverty at face value.  In addition, a PSRA management representative threatened multiple members of the bargaining unit during a pre-season camp in Orlando.  Those charges are pending and will be decided by the National Labor Relations Board.

PSRA was not willing to agree to a no-strike/lockout agreement, however, PSRA never provided notice of a strike.  Instead, we were seeking to employ the use of Scot Beckenbaugh, the acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, beginning on Monday in D.C.  PRO and MLS have chosen to try and break the Union rather than working with us to achieve a result that is best for both sides and professional soccer in this country.

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