Professional Soccer Referees Association - Through Unity, Strength

Part II - An Open Letter to our Referee Community

January 29, 2024

Dear Colleagues,

Please see our previous letter to our referee community here.

We are encouraged by the hundreds of texts, emails, and phone calls we have received from the referee community. It is clear everyone is united and together, and your messages continue to motivate us as we move forward with negotiations. Thank you.

Many of the messages we’ve received have echoed the same sentiment: the PSRA is the only organization working for the officials within our sport, and you appreciate us working on your behalf. Every other organization, league, and entity answers to team owners or other stakeholders. The PSRA answers to the officials and works to resolve your issues about safety, working conditions, and financial concerns.

To address the biggest question we have received: anyone assigned an MLS preseason game (a game prior to February 21st when the MLS regular season starts) should feel free to work the game. If a work stoppage exists for MLS officials at some point, we will have more communication with everyone regarding regular season games, but working preseason games is not an issue. Those matches will help prepare you for your upcoming NWSL, USL, and MLSNP seasons, and we want you to be ready for the opening weekend of those leagues.

PRO has allegedly started making some phone calls and asking officials about future availability for MLS regular season matches. This may be a conversation that seems vague and includes phrases such as:

We have a training camp for new PRO refs coming up, would you be interested?
We’re expanding the MLS roster at this time, are you available for this season?
Congratulations, we want to welcome you into PRO for the 2024 MLS season.

Please understand this is PRO’s way of getting you closer to working as a replacement referee if there is a work stoppage. We encourage you to prepare as you usually would for your upcoming season, including attending all training webinars. We urge you to comply with all of PRO’s usual training requests, yet also be aware of how the “ask” from them may change in the coming days and weeks.

As we have stated before, the PRO staff are good, decent people. They are our former colleagues. Our friendships with them have not changed. They were PSRA members in 2019 and 2014 during those CBA negotiations. Our 2024 PRO preseason camp was positive and professional. In the same breath, please understand they serve a different stakeholder in their current role. If they are forced by MLS to try to find short-term replacements to open the MLS season, they understand that is an unfortunate, and personally painful, part of their current role.

We have no reason to believe they will issue threats, ultimatums, or even innuendos. As such, you should feel empowered to respond politely as needed:

Apologies, but I’m not available to work any potential MLS assignments.
I am unavailable. Thank you for your consideration.
Unfortunately, I’m not available in this situation.

Our ask: please stand in solidarity with your officiating colleagues and consider other assignment options.

In 2023, officials who work in NWSL, USL, and MLSNP ratified a first and historic CBA with PRO to govern their employment rights, working conditions, and travel/wage expectations. This was a historic deal which resulted in higher standards, more professionalism, better game fees, and an off-field environment that set officials up for success once they stepped on the field.

These standards have a trickle-down effect on all officials working those leagues: those standards in the CBA become uniform across the league. The PSRA, through our unity, has accomplished all of these improvements that benefit all officials. A large number of those working these leagues are members and receive our regular membership communications, but for those who are not members yet, or are just perhaps new to the scene, understand these are the ‘wins’ that we work hard for, that we are proud of, and that you deserve.

For those officials whose long-term goal is to work in MLS, the CBA we are currently negotiating is one that will benefit you when you reach your goal. Each CBA builds upon the one before it and includes improvements that grow each year.

Our solidarity as a cohort of sports officials will compel PRO and MLS to take the negotiations seriously and reach an equitable agreement that acknowledges the dedication and contribution that each elite referee makes to this game regardless of the organization for which they currently work.

We again thank you. If you have any questions, or would just like further information, please let us know - is how you can easily reach us on the PSRA Board, or you can feel free to reach out to anyone working in MLS with whom you may have a connection.

On behalf of all MLS officials,

The PSRA Executive Board

Peter Manikowski, President
Brian Poeschel, VP
Chris Penso, Secretary
Jonathan Johnson, Treasurer
Matt Franz, Member-at-Large
Jeremy Hanson, Member-at-Large
Jason White, Member-at-Large

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