The MLS referees voted this week to decide if they were willing to go on strike depending the result of a upcoming collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The vote: 64-1. It’s not anything serious yet, but failing negotiations could mean backup refs calling 2014 MLS games.
There are 76 referees currently employed by the MLS. As mentioned before, 64 voted to approve the strike, 1 was opposed, and 11 didn’t vote at all during the online poll held from Wednesday to Friday.
It was earlier this week when the Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA) filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint stated that the Professional Referee Organization ”threatened multiple members with discipline and additional unlawful threats of reprisals if those members continued to support the union.”
The PSRA is responsible for filling MLS games with referees whether they’re part of the union or not. Actually, referees that are part of the union may still call games without a CBA, but the vote shows that they most likely won’t be so happy to oblige. Without the original refs, MLS games will be overlooked by secondary officials, who are not as experienced, qualified, or trusted.
If you live in the United States, you’ll remember the NFL’s Great Referee Debacle of 2011, if you don’t live in the States, or don’t recall, let me explain: This same thing happened then and the refs went on strike. After several disputes of wages, the NFL was forced to bring in backup refs. All-in-all, they weren’t much worse than the originals — they had a similar rate of terrible decisions — but one horrible call changed everything back to normal. The “Fail Mary” had fans and players calling for the old refs to return, and the NFL had no choice but to finish the negotiation.
Hopefully, we won’t see the MLS season come to something like that. At worst, expect to see a rougher style of play during backup-ref-play. An experienced soccer referee can spot some of the more covert fouls that players try to get away with, so their might be some underhanded shoving and grabbing going on in the mean time.
Just remember though that this does to mean the refs are already on strike, it just means they’re prepared to strike.. The negotiations will end on March 8th, the day the season starts. Only then will secondary refs become necessary. This whole situation may blow over in the coming week, but there’s no way of telling.
Keep coming back to the MLS Multiplex in the coming days as we’ll have all the important info on the situation.