- About PRO
Assistant referees Bill Dittmar and Paul Scott have expressed their surprise, pride and excitement at being assigned to the MLS Cup 2013.
With a combined 35 years of MLS experience behind them, it will be their first MLS Cup and concludes a hugely successful year for the duo.
Alongside center official Hilario Grajeda, they worked the MLS All-Star game, becoming the first crew to be assigned to both matches in one season.
“Ecstatic, honored and thankful would be the three words I would use to describe the assignment,” Dittmar told proreferees.com.
“My first MLS game was way back in 1996; from the perspective of my long-term career it never seemed possible. I am extremely shocked.”
They are sentiments echoed by Scott, both a friend and colleague of Dittmar’s.
“It’s the thrill of a lifetime – I never thought in a million years I would receive this assignment,” admitted the Oklahoma man.
“No crew has ever had both the MLS Cup and the All-Star game in the same season and because of that we didn’t expect the call, but we wanted to give the assignors something to think about by performing well.
“So many other officials are equally as deserving and would be able to do a great job – we’re the fortunate ones.”
Alongside Grajeda, the trio have been officiating MLS games as a crew for the past three years, working up not just a professional relationship, but a bond of friendship too.
Their most recent game together was the Western Conference Semi-Final second leg between Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders.
Emotions were running high between the teams on the night and it proved to be a busy match for the officials, whom needed to react quickly throughout the game.
Their understanding of each other was highlighted perfectly when Dittmar flagged for a penalty, which was given by Grajeda - a move which featured in Play of the week 38.
Their friendship when officiating is something that both ARs believe facilitates an increase in refereeing standards.
The trio understand that being friends off the field is a massive help when it comes to those intense 90 minutes on the soccer field.
“We’ve been together three years and there’s nobody else I think we would rather work with,” said Scott.
“When we were first grouped together we were like ‘who are these guys?’ Bill and I have been around since the beginning of the league and we had hardly worked together.
“Now, alongside Grajeda, we are all on the same page in the way we view the game, and that’s a big help.”
Dittmar has worked with Jallow this season in Vancouver where they were also room-mates, and the pair spoke on the phone the night before the MLS Cup assignments were announced, unaware of the impending good news.
But there have been plenty of congratulatory phone calls in the days since, especially from close family members, to whom it means just as much to the ARs themselves.
“It’s big for me but when I got the call I immediately spoke to my wife Heidi,” revealed Dittmar. “She has always been there for me and this is our assignment.
“At 48, fitness training is pretty hard for me, but she ran on the track with me last winter. She takes care of our business when I’m gone. She has endured the most to facilitate my career so she deserves this more than I do.”
For single-parent Scott, he hopes the achievement is something he can share with his family.
Particularly with both his parents and kids, who have assisted him on his way to officiating at the top of the game.
“I’ve depended on my parents to help me raise my boys so I can have this career. Without all of their support, I would have had to quit 18 years ago.
“I live in Tulsa which is only a three and a half hour drive from Kansas City, so to be able to share this with them, it’s terrific.”
The year-ending match between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake will be Dittmar’s 18th MLS assignment of 2013 and Scott’s 21st, rounding off their respective seasons in style.
Saturday’s Final will bring the curtain down on PRO’s first full season in operation, and both ARs are in agreement that the organization has dramatically improved officiating standards in North American soccer.
Dittmar said: “Even without the two big assignments, 2013 would have been my best year as an official, my most satisfying year.”
“I give a lot of that credit to PRO because the whole culture has changed. I don’t want to be disparaging to the old methods because everything is an evolution, but for 16 years it was different.
“We didn’t know what to expect at first in 2012 but this year, from start to finish, from pre-season camp to now, it’s been a consistent, positive culture, like you’re important and matter.
“You are told that time and training will be invested in you, there will be love and care and smacks in the butt, but you are the chosen guys and we support you.”
Scott added: “I’ve been around for 18 years. I’ve seen a lot of regime changes but PRO is the best thing that has happened for professional referees.
“Having this organization with General Manager Peter Walton, Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer and Referee Manager Michael Kennedy coming in to manage the officials has been great. We need the direction, but also the independence.
“It shows the strength of PRO that Hilario Grajeda is part-time and none of us are FIFA referees. It’s a good message that if you work hard enough you get the games.”