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MLS tells commentators not to comment on referee dispute

Published: Updated: 14:56, 5 Mar 2024
The highest league in US soccer has reportedly made a direct request to broadcasters on the topic

Major League Soccer (MLS) is believed to have instructed broadcasters to limit their commentary on the ongoing referee dispute within the league. This directive comes amidst a lockout of the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) by the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which is responsible for determining match officials for MLS games.

The PRO has opted not to use any PSRA officials due to a rejection of a collective bargaining agreement. As a result, some referees used in recent matches have been sourced from youth leagues and colleges.

According to The Athletic, MLS has advised broadcasters not only to limit comments about this situation but also to avoid referring to these new referees as 'replacement' referees. Instead, they are encouraged to only briefly mention it before games start.

Major League Soccer said in an official memo:

"Fans tune in to watch and listen to the game. They aren't focused on the officials. Therefore, we don't believe it is necessary to belabour the point during the match."

This approach aligns with how broadcasts are managed by MLS in collaboration with IMG for global streams throughout each season. Coverage provided via the MLS Season Pass tends towards supporting rather than criticizing the league's actions.

No real refereeing controversy thus far in the MLS season

Despite these changes in officiating personnel, there fortunately hasn’t been any significant controversy regarding poor refereeing decisions two weeks into the 2024 season.

However, there have been instances where last-minute changes were made due to potential conflicts of interest - such as when an official scheduled to referee Inter Miami’s game against Orlando City was photographed wearing an Inter Miami jersey.

Despite these hiccups, overall satisfaction with referee performance remains high within MLS management circles.

While MLS has asked broadcasters not to dwell on the ongoing referee issue, it does not want them to completely avoid discussing controversial decisions. However, they are advised against attributing these decisions to the fact that 'replacement' referees are being used.

The memo also noted that negotiations between the PRO and PSRA continue, but replacement referees will be utilized in the meantime, for the foreseeable future. This includes upcoming games this weekend and CONCACAF Champions Cup matches in midweek.

While commentators and broadcasters on the MLS Season Pass will cover every game, viewers should not expect extensive discussions about the referee lockout - even if controversial decisions do occur during matches.

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