Major League Soccer
US Soccer

Referee Union rejects no strike/no lockout agreement forcing PRO to lock out referees

Mar 7, 2014

NEW YORK (March 7, 2014) – Today, following a rejection by referees of a no strike/no lockout agreement, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced that it will commence a lockout of its match officials, effective at 11:00 am ET on March 7, until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between PRO and the Professional Soccer Referees Associations (PSRA).  PRO will use replacement officials for the Major League Soccer matches that will be played this weekend.

PRO and the PSRA have been engaged over the last several months in negotiations for their first Collective Bargaining Agreement.    

“We have made a substantial proposal to the Professional Soccer Referees Association and believe it is very fair and reasonable,” said PRO General Manager Peter Walton. “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.”

PRO had hoped to avoid a lockout and suggested a path that would avert a work stoppage. “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”, said Walton.  “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.”

PRO has recruited a highly-qualified pool of replacement officials all of whom have officiated at the professional level.  The pool includes international FIFA officials who have moved here from overseas, former MLS officials and officials who have worked in other professional leagues in the US who PRO believes are qualified to officiate at the MLS level. As part of PRO’s contingency plan, the replacement officials attended a preseason training camp last week.

“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,” said Walton.

PRO was created 18 months ago with the goal of developing and employing world-class referees.  Since the formation of PRO, it has made substantial investments in these efforts including:

- Increasing the number of full-time officials from 2 to 9
- Increasing the number of part-time officials from 0 to 11
- Creating 20 3-day training camps to provide our referees with top level development
- Creating 3 2-day training camps to provide our ARs and fourth officials with specific development programs consistent with their responsibilities
- Creating a new referee assessment protocol aimed at ensuring accuracy, fairness and transparency
- Employing a full-time sports scientist to monitor the health and wellness of our referees
- Employing 8 full time administrative staff to provide support and assistance to our efforts and our referees

“We have made these investments because we believe in the importance of our referees to the soccer product in the United States and Canada”, said Walton.  “We fully understand and appreciate their role and that employing high quality professional referees is paramount to achieving success.”

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