MLS referees locked out as season about to start

NEW YORK — Major League Soccer’s referees and other on-field officials were locked out Friday, a day before the season openers.

The Professional Referee Organization, which manages game officials for the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS, notified the Professional Soccer Referee Association of the lockout and said replacement officials will be used.

PRO said the union, which was formed last year, rejected a no strike-no lockout agreement that management had proposed. The sides have bargained since July without reaching a deal on a labor contract.

“Our proposal represents a significant increase above current compensation for referees and places them above the average for officials around the world,” said PRO general manager Peter Walton, an English Premier League referee from 2003-12.

PRO said in the 11/2 years since its formation, it had increased full-time officials from two to nine and added 11 part-time officials.

The PSRA has filed unfair labor practice charges accusing the PRO of bad-faith bargaining and making threats against its members.

“We have requested a plethora of information, including financials, that PRO and MLS have refused to provide, instead demanding we take their pleas of poverty at face value,” said Lukas Middlebrook, a lawyer for the union.

PRO said replacements include former international FIFA officials who have moved to the U.S. and former MLS officials.

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