EXCLUSIVE: MLS wants English referees to IMPROVE standards
Published 22:22 10/03/12 By Alan Biggs
American soccer chiefs are ready to headhunt top English referees in a new move to upgrade the status of MLS.
The appointment of Premier League referee Peter Walton, 52, to create the first pro regime for officials in America is tipped to lead to more recruitment from here.
England’s World Cup Final referee Howard Webb could even be a target now that, at 40, he has achieved most of his career goals.
Others, such as Mark Clattenburg, 37, and Mark Halsey, 50, may attract attention as Major League bosses look to set the highest possible standard of officiating in the States.
Coaching roles are also in the air as a result of the Americans setting up a group called PRO (Professional Referee Organization).
MLS commissioner Don Garber says Walton, who takes up his supremo post on April 2, will have “substantial resources to help MLS achieve its vision of setting the worldwide standard in officiating”.
By looking to England in the first place, the Americans have doffed their caps to the often much-maligned refereeing structure here.
It is viewed as a role model in the States where there is a drive to raise standards in line with the enticement of top players, such as David Beckham.
So, Walton’s departure also presents a challenge to the English game as it could create an international market for referees as well as players.
Attractive financial packages are believed to be in the offing, possibly topping senior referees’ earnings of £75,000 in the Premier League.
As referee manager for the United States Soccer Federation, Northamptonshire-based Walton will embrace the thriving MLS – now the 12th most attended premier division in the world.
There was embarrassment for Premier League refs yesterday.
Before the games, the officials wore special training tops, linked to the “Don’t X The Line” respect referees campaign.
Unfortunately, whoever commissioned the shirts couldn’t spell ‘aggressive’.