Major League Soccer
US Soccer

New organization to improve officiating in North America

The U.S. Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer have joined forces to create the Professional Referee Organization (PRO).

The aims for PRO will be to develop a higher standard of officiating at a younger age and to produce referees who can represent the United States and Canada in FIFA competitions.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said: “We’ve always understood that the development of referees is an important aspect to the growth of the game in the United States.

“PRO is another step toward the improvement and professionalization of our top referees. With the additional resources and funding provided by the formation of PRO, we will continue to build upon the progress we’ve already made.”

Heading up PRO will be Peter Walton, a former referee who officiated just under 200 matches in the English Premier League.

The Commissioner of the MLS, Don Garber, was delighted to get Walton on board.

He said: “MLS and U.S. Soccer proudly welcome PRO General Manager Peter Walton, who will utilize his exceptional experience as a referee and as an administrator, along with substantial resources, to help MLS achieve its vision of setting the worldwide standard in officiating.”

Walton has been involved with professional football since he joined the English Football League as an assistant referee in 1993. The 52-year-old advanced to the FIFA panel of Assistants in 1996 and then onto the Referees panel of the Football League in 1998.

He accepted a full-time position as a referee in the English Premier League in 2003 and, in 2007, completed the Advanced Course for Referee Instructors hosted by CONMEBOL and FIFA in Ecuador.

Walton commented: “I’m looking forward to the next stage of my career as the general manager of the Professional Referee Organization.

“The formation of PRO by U.S. Soccer and MLS provides a great opportunity to increase the development of referees and improve the overall quality of refereeing in the U.S. professional leagues. It’s a worthy challenge and I’m excited to get started.”

The PRO model allows for increased funding towards the referee program, the hiring of experienced technical staff, improved training opportunities for officials, additional identification, additional identification and training opportunities for up-and-coming officials, amplified numbers of full-time referees employed, and raise the investment toward sports science.

A PRO Advisory Board will also be established and meet regularly to ensure satisfactory progress is being achieved.

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