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Professional Soccer Referees vote to authorize strike

A work stoppage could delay the start of the 2024 MLS season.

Did somebody say stop? | Courtesy MLS

The union that represents the referees who officiate MLS games voted to authorize a strike if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by January 31, 2024. The previous CBA expired on January 15, 2024, but an extension allows negotiations to continue until the end of the month. The 2024 MLS season begins on February 21, when Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami will Real Salt Lake at DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

According to the Professional Soccer Referees Association, the union that represents the referees, the authorization to strike received 100% of the votes of participating officials.

The previous CBA dates to 2019. PSRA issued a statement explaining that the new CBA still has “outstanding issues,” including “compensation and benefits; scheduling, training camps, other quality-of-life impacts; and travel.”

90% vs 5%

But the heart of the issue seems to be money. PSRA feels that the referees they represent are underpaid, especially in light of the money brought in by Apple TV and the singing of Messi.

In recent negotiations, PRO’s representatives have stated at the table, in no uncertain terms, that their “customer,” MLS, is not willing to pay materially more for officiating services. PRO has also stated, on multiple occasions, that PSRA needs to “get realistic” about its proposals. Meanwhile, MLS continues to celebrate its skyrocketing expansion, viewership reach and record-breaking revenues while boasting about and benefiting from the notoriety of recent outstanding performances of PSRA officials in the biggest competitions worldwide. Professional Soccer Referees Association

According to The Athletic, the PSRA are looking for a wage increase of “up to 90%,” and that the biggest salary increases are for lower-paid officials, such as assistant referees and fourth officials. That same article states that a source said PRO are offering “an overall raise of 4-5%”

That article further explains that senior referees make a base salary of $95,000 to $108,000 per year, plus $1,350 per match. Referees with less experience make a base salary of $50,647 per year plus the $1,350 per match fee, while assistant referees make $16,000 to $21,000 plus the $1,350 match fee.

Pressure is on MLS to find a solution and avoid a work stoppage well before the start of the season.