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 not to call the referees “alternate referees.”
  • The referee organizer and the referees’ union have been locked out since February 18
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As the lockout between the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) continues, Major League Soccer appears to have instructed broadcasters to avoid the topic as much as possible.

The PRO (which employs referees across the country) has been embroiled in a contract dispute with the PSRA (the union that represents referees) for a number of weeks. The first two weeks of play will be 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 to “refrain from elaborating” when discussing the lockout.

“Fans tune in to watch and listen to the game,” the memo read. ‘They are not aimed at the civil servants; therefore, we do not believe it is necessary to elaborate on this point during the match.

“It’s best to mention the situation in the pregame and move on.”

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

Negotiations are underway between the referees' employers and their union

Negotiations are underway between the referees’ employers and their union

Replacement referees have been deployed for the first two weeks of the 2024 MLS season

Replacement referees have been deployed for the first two weeks of the 2024 MLS season

This memo also advised broadcasters to refer to the replacement referees only as ‘referees, no other description necessary’ other than their name, where they come from and their experience as a referee.

In addition, the memo included ‘sample language’ on describing situations and the many new additions to the refereeing experience (such as in-stadium VAR announcements) that have been postponed 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 the controversy.

There have been a number of controversies about the quality of the referees and the replacement referees themselves.

Two examples concern Inter Miami. In their MD2 match, the LA Galaxy were reduced to ten men after a controversial second yellow card for Marco Delgado in the 87th minute. Just five minutes later, Lionel Messi scored a goal, making the match 1–1 and stealing a point.

Ahead of their third match of the season against rivals Orlando City, the PRO central referee was replaced after photos emerged of the 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 excluded since February 18 after two temporary extensions expired and the PSRA rejected a proposal from negotiators.