Major League Soccer
US Soccer

PRO chairman Jim Brown happy with progress

July 4, 2014

Founded in November 2012, the Professional Referee Organization was set up to provide world-class match officials to professional soccer in North America by 2022.

Now in its second full season of officiating professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada, PRO chairman Jim Brown believes the organization is in a good place.

“We’re very happy with PRO and how it is progressing”, Brown told

“I think the general feelings from people are positive. Year-by-year, improvements are being made in all areas; decision making, approach, attitude, physical conditioning. 

“The professionalization of refereeing has helped officials to prepare themselves in the right way and that is beginning to pay dividends, as is having people on the selection process too.

“This isn’t just in the MLS of course. Overall in all the leagues - the NASL, USL PRO and NWSL - we are seeing gains being made. You just have to look at the North American crew in the World Cup to see that officiating in the US and Canada matches up to international standards.

Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher have done a great job, and for Geiger to become the first American referee to take charge of a World Cup knock-out game is a brilliant achievement.”

The mention of the 2014 World Cup is fitting. A former Director of Competitions with FIFA from 2003 to 2010, Brown was responsible for the planning and event management of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups in addition to overseeing the refereeing technical department.

Brown is currently in Brazil working on the World Cup as a lead consultant for FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee, but having spent a good portion of his career working in sports overseas the Park City, Utah, resident is especially enthused by playing a part in helping develop professional soccer in North America through his work with PRO. 

“What we must be aware of is that this is a long-term, gradual transition. I think we are seeing an increase in respect from everyone, but you’re only as good as you’re last game.

“Whether officials are right or wrong, it’s important that there isn’t an over-reaction. A decision is made on the day, and we have to coach them to help enhance the overall product of what people are watching on television or have paid to watch in the stands.

“When you meet the officials, the feeling and vibe is always professional. I wish people could see that more because it would help appreciation of how serious the preparation and coaching is. It is a very impressive environment. 

“And it’s not just the current officials, either. We have extensive succession planning; with the expansion of professional soccer leagues comes the task of producing more PRO officials, and that’s something at which we are working very hard. 

“This is all about improving the product of soccer in our area of the world and I’m very happy to be involved. 

“I feel strongly that this is the right thing to be doing, and the right people are doing the best they can to deliver a great product. We will keep aiming to take that next step higher."

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