MLS Refereeing – What’s going on?

It’s not been easy to follow progress on the Referee situation as the regular season approaches tomorrow but perhaps some of this information may help?

Bottom line up front:  Everyone, I hope, thinks and feels they want to have the best possible conditions for this league to prosper – refereeing is a critical part of this game and their decisions can and do directly influence the outcomes at times.

If MLS is to continue their development towards being a world-class league then a superb step along the way is having world-class refereeing.

And while most of the press are talking about the “lock-out” I’d prefer to offer this bit of info up first…

Perhaps unknown to many is that Both PRO and the Referee Union have agreed to work (when they do get started working together again) with a new software system that has been used in the EPL for a number of years.

This new video software system is designed to help evaluate, and therefore improve, the accuracy of officiating decisions rather than the past practice of an in-person assessors report.

The only verbal feedback will cover areas where the camera’s won’t ‘see’ during a game for Assistant Referees.  The cameras being used are already installed in all the MLS stadiums.

So… like players getting intense scrutiny by coaching staff on positional play and execution through video analysis the same philosophy and approach will be used on Referees and Assistant Referees by PRO.

The “Lock-out”…

I don’t begin to know what “substantial proposal” means as taken from this article provided on website.  What I can offer is that I’ve heard that the MLS Referees “were” willing to work through negotiations but it was PRO (probably to include MLS?) that called the “lock-out”; others may have a different view.

As with most issues between referee organizations and ownership; it’s most likely all about money.

The article also indicates that a separate training session was to occur last week for the replacement Referees and Assistant Referees – well that’s correct but I think a few other bits of information are missing (left unsaid perhaps?):

  • That training is actually ‘fitness training’ and it’s not necessarily the training that meets the specific guidelines of MLS Referee’s and Assistant Referee’s to run a game; nor does the article clearly indicate that ‘all’ replacement referees and assistant referees have completed this training.
  • Some replacement Ref’s are qualified for NASL fitness levels while some are qualified for MLS fitness levels.
  • There is another fitness training event occurring this weekend, in Seattle, for the replacements – perhaps the timing might have been better?
  • If PRO had been considering a “lockout”, as a management step in previous strategic meetings working towards a resolution, then it would seem to me that PRO would have made ’emergency management plans’ that would have looked to ensure all replacement referees met the fitness test criteria, required to run an MLS game, before the season started; others may view that differently?
  • By the way – when I reference ‘fitness testing’ it really is all about a referee and/or assistant referee passing a fitness test that certifies they have the endurance to run the length of the pitch for a full 90 minutes.
  • That might not seem a hard thing to do, but if you’ve ever played soccer before 90 minutes is a long time and as fatigue sets in decision-making can sometimes be a bit more difficult.  Unlike professional teams who can make substitutions for players getting fatigued, at the 60/70/80/90 minute mark, that is not the case with referees; they must be acutely aware the entire 90 minutes plus stoppage time.
  • I hope for all concerned replacement referee decisions don’t falter as the game enters the final stages!
  • This is not to advocate that wrong decisions will occur, but there is a reason referees and assistant referees must pass this test…  otherwise why is it required?

In closing…

In my view it’s more important to look past this early conflict and consider the positive long run intent to try and improve referee decision making through the video system statistics and technology.  What do you think?

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckptfc

Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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