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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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MLS to open 2014 season with replacement referees

It’s a strike.

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The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced Friday a lockout of the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PRSA) after the PRSA rejected a "no strike/no lockout" agreement with the PRO after an ongoing labor dispute, according to MLSSoccer.com. As a result of the strike, replacement referees will be officiating the opening-weekend matches of the 2014 Major League Soccer seasons.

"We have made a substantial proposal to the Professional Soccer Referees Association and believe it is very fair and reasonable," PRO general manager Peter Walton said in a statement to MLSSoccer.com. "Our proposal represents a significant increase above current compensation for referees and places them above the average for officials around the world. We are disappointed it has been rejected."

"We have high confidence in the qualifications of our replacement officials and can ensure our fans, clubs and players that all games will be officiated at a professional standard that protects the integrity of our matches and the safety of our players," PRO general manager Peter Walton later told MLSSoccer.com.

Lucas Middlebrook, legal counsel for the PRSA, sent this statement to the Tribune Friday morning:

"PRO’s release is misleading in the extreme. PSRA has been forced for many months to negotiate in the dark. 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. In addition, a PRO management representative threatened multiple members of the bargaining unit during a pre-season camp in Orlando. Those charges are pending and will be decided by the National Labor Relations Board.

PRSA was not willing to agree to a no-strike/lockout agreement, however, PSRA never provided notice of a strike. Instead, we were seeking to employ the use of the acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service beginning on Monday in D.C. PRO and MLS have chosen to try and break the Union rather than working with us to achieve a result that is best for both sides and professional soccer in this country."

Per MLS, the replacement officials attended a preseason training last week as part of PRO’s contingency plan for a work stoppage. Seven of the eight officials working this weekend have officiated MLS matches or FIFA international matches in the past.

The lockout officially began Friday morning.

The officiating crew for Real Salt Lake’s season-opener against the L.A. Galaxy at the StubHub Center Saturday night is comprised of: Javier Santos (Current FIFA Puerto Rico), Jairo Morales (Current FIFA Puerto Rico) and Jose Da Silva (MLS Preseason, NASL).

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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