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Global Mar 06, 2012

Report: U.S., Canadian soccer federations, MLS set to unveil new refereeing board

The U.S. Soccer Federation, working in conjunction with Major League Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association, is set to unveil a new initiative intended to raise the level of refereeing at the game’s top levels, according to Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer News.

Quarstad reports that the new entity will be called the Professional Referee Organization, or PRO, and is to be modeled after England’s Professional Game Match Officials Board, which was formed when that country’s elite referees went pro in 2001. PGMOB monitors top referees’ performance, fitness (via tests and heart monitor readings), training and continuing education.

“A spokesperson for US Soccer confirmed that Peter Walton will be named as the full time General Manager of PRO. Walton is an Englishman who has been a professional referee for 18 years, spending 15 years officiating in the English Premier League,” writes Quarstad. “Walton will lead an advisory board made up of former players, former coaches, owners, and officials who will meet regularly with the GM to carve an exact path and direction for the PRO.”

Apparently the idea for PRO grew out of U.S. Soccer’s Pro Referee Task Force, a 2010 project to evaluate the current standard of elite U.S. refereeing and form a plan to improve it. Significant funding will be invested in this process, not only to oversee, guide and educate current refs but also to create a pipeline for promising young referees to work their way up the system.

“What happened last year (2011) is the league (MLS) stepped into this to a greater degree,” Herb Silva, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Professional Referees, told Quarstad. “U.S. Soccer in concert with the CSA and MLS came up with some points of emphasis. Not that we weren’t doing this before but now we were looking at this from the league’s perspective.

“We had all of the officials, evaluators, referee coaching staff and the teams’ organization all in one place hearing a presentation by [MLS] commissioner [Don] Garber. He explained those points of emphasis and basically said, this is the way we want our product to look. So let’s pay attention to certain points of emphasis like protecting players from reckless tackles, free kick management, as well as many other points. After that meeting the refs met and said, what does this mean in referee speak?”

With the 2012 MLS season beginning this weekend, there will soon be ample opportunities for both PRO and the league itself to track the quality of the top referees in the United States and Canada, though the effects of this new initiative may take years to bear fruit.

[ +Read Quarstad’s full piece here ]

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