NYCFC and NY Red Bulls to open season this weekend with replacement referees due to labor contract dispute

NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls are set to kick off their 2024 seasons this weekend, but fans won't be seeing the usual officials on the field due to a union lockout. 

Ashley Mastronardi

Feb 24, 2024, 12:51 AM

Updated 56 days ago

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There's a showdown happening in Major League Soccer - and referees are calling a foul. 
NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls are set to kick off their 2024 seasons this weekend, but fans won't be seeing the usual officials on the field.  It's all part of a union lockout. 
Members of the Professional Soccer Referees Association picketed beneath a giant pig smoking a cigar this past week in Midtown. They recently rejected a collective bargaining agreement offered by the Professional Referee Organization and now there’s beef - or pork -in this case.  Peter Manikowski is the president of PSRA. 
“They offered a wage package and a travel package that included some sizable raises for some members but not all.  What we’re looking at is how we’re keeping up with the rest of the league. This league is growing at an exponential rate, our wages are not,” Manikowski told News 12 New York.  
According to the PSRA, center referees pull in a $90,000 base salary and $1,300 per game.  Assistant referees make about $40,000 per year.  They say many of their refs have to work other jobs because the wages are so low.  But PRO says they’ve come to the table with a fair deal.  Major League Soccer, who relies on PRO to staff its referees, said in a statement about the deal that PRSA rejected:  
[It] included the largest compensation increase in PRO referee CBA history, representing a 25% overall increase over 2023 when comparing salaries, game fees, benefits, plus the addition of business class travel for certain matches. The agreement would have made PRO members among the highest paid soccer match officials in the world. 
Both NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls will be playing with replacement referees this weekend.  PSRA will be picketing again this weekend here outside of the MLS and PRO headquarters at 420 5th Ave. in Manhattan.  PRO says both sides will be going back to the bargaining table on Wednesday. 


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