- About PRO
Aug 22, 2013
Major League Soccer’s Nelson Rodriguez has praised the work of the Professional Referee Organization.
Just under a year after the inception of PRO, Rodriguez, the Executive Vice President of Competition, Technical and Game Operations, believes General Manager Peter Walton and the organization are ahead of where he expected them to be at this stage.
He told proreferees.com: “The organization under Peter Walton’s leadership has taken great shape.
“Starting a company from scratch is difficult enough but having it in a competitive environment where everyone can watch you and measure your progress week-in, week-out, can be daunting, but he’s kept it steady and he’s assembled a great staff base.
“Also, importantly, we have a sense from the body of officials themselves that they feel we’re on the right path and that things are improving, and there’s a seriousness about their craft, not from them but from everyone else.
“While there will always be moments and decisions that create levels of debate, those have diminished greatly this year compared to last so we’re very pleased with the progress, even though we’ve only just begun.”
Rodriguez has vast experience in American soccer having begun his career as Head Coach of the men’s team at Lafayette College between 1995 and 1997, before serving as Director of Soccer Operations for the MetroStars from 1998 to 1999.
He joined MLS in 2000 and is heavily involved in on-field competition and technical matters, including regular dialogue with PRO, which he believes is extremely positive.
“We think there’s very honest and direct dialogue, and think there’s healthy disagreement in the few instances when there is disagreement.
“I don’t believe that our direction or idea is to work towards an outcome, like wanting to be at a certain number of fouls per game average. You have to referee each match and each situation as it presents itself.
“This is more about creating a career arc for the officials themselves so that young officials can really say, ‘Hey, I could make it to the pros in a capacity other than a player or a coach’.
“At the same time, I think it’s about creating a philosophy of professional officiating. PRO is also responsible for NWSL, NASL and USL PRO and I don’t want to speak on behalf of those leagues but I would hope there is some similarity in thought of how officiating should run through a professional spectrum.
“Of course there will be different answers based on the level but I’m pleased with the philosophical progress that we’re seeing.”
MLS and PRO both have clear targets to achieve by 2022 and Rodriguez is of the belief that both are firmly heading in the right direction, hand-in-hand.
And he is anticipating further improvement in the near future, particularly with regards to young referees coming through the ranks and making the grade.
“Major League Soccer has a vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022 and PRO has its vision to set the worldwide standard for officiating in 2022.
“In 18 months time, what I would hope to see are more full-time officials, a greater level of consistency - understandably beauty is in the eye of the beholder in some debates.
“I also hope that there are a few more younger, newer referees who have come through, so we start to create a systematic pipeline and there’s a blend of officials in that full-time crew of seasoned veterans, mid-level veterans, and then those newer officials.”