MLS ‘told TV and radio broadcasters to avoid discussing replacement referees’ and not to ‘belabor the point’ as the lockout between the league and officials extends past Matchday 2

  • MLS told broadcasters to avoid calling the officials ‘replacement referees’ 
  • The referee organizer and the referees union have been locked out since Feb. 18
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As a lockout between the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) continues, Major League Soccer has seemingly told broadcasters to avoid the subject as much as possible. 

The PRO (who employs referees across the country) has been locked in a contract dispute with the PSRA (the union representing referees) for a number of weeks. The first two weeks of fixtures have been staffed by replacement referees.

But in a memo obtained by Jeff Rueter of The Athletic and verified by multiple sources, MLS asked television and radio broadcasters not to ‘belabor the point’ when talking about the lockout.

‘Fans tune in to watch and listen to the game,’ the memo read. ‘They aren’t focused on the officials; therefore, we don’t believe it is necessary to belabor the point during the match.

‘It is best to mention the situation in the pregame and move on.’

MLS has told broadcasters to avoid discussing the referee lockout as much as possible

Negotiations between the referees' employers and their union have been ongoing

Negotiations between the referees’ employers and their union have been ongoing 

Replacement referees have been used in the first two weeks of the 2024 MLS season

Replacement referees have been used in the first two weeks of the 2024 MLS season

Said memo also advised broadcasters to refer to the replacement referees only as ‘referees, no other description necessary’ except for their name, where they come from, and their officiating experience.

In addition, the memo included ‘example language’ on describing situations and the multiple new additions to the refereeing experience (like in-stadium VAR announcements) that have been delayed due to the lockout.

They were also advised to ‘agree or disagree’ with controversial calls, but not to imply that replacement referees were ‘the reason’ for said controversy.

Already there have been a number of controversies with the quality of officiating and the replacement referees themselves.

Two examples involve Inter Miami. In their MD2 game, the LA Galaxy went down to ten men on a controversial second yellow card to Marco Delgado in the 87th minute. Just five minutes later, Lionel Messi scored a goal to level the game at 1-1 and steal a point.

Ahead of their third match of the season against rivals Orlando City, the PRO’s assigned center referee was replaced after photos surfaced of said referee wearing an Inter Miami jersey this winter.

According to The Athletic, MLS executives were ‘pleased with the performance’ of replacement referees in the opening weekend. 

The PRO and PSRA have been locked out since February 18 after two temporary extensions expired and the PSRA rejected a proposal from negotiators.