The Professional Referee Organization and Capelli Sport have revealed the new uniform for MLS officials, which will be worn through the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Capelli Sport has been PRO’s Official and Exclusive Uniform and Apparel Supplier since 2021 and this is the second design they have collaborated on. When the opportunity presented itself to work together two years ago, PRO’s management team was keen to have the officials involved throughout the design process – something that has continued with the development of this uniform.
Robert Sibiga was the referee representative alongside assistant referees Logan Brown and Katy Nesbitt; the latter also added value in ensuring the designs were comfortable for women. Manager of Senior Referees, Alan Kelly, who was involved in designing the previous uniform, was also on hand as a member of the management team.
“We started the process of developing the new kit in May last year,” said Kelly. “It was easier than the first cycle because we could see the designs in person at Capelli Sport’s New York office and showroom, rather than be restricted to video calls because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are some staple refereeing colors with black being the traditional one, but blue has come through over the last few years.
“The original two-year cycle had navy, green, blue, and orange, so this year sees a move back towards black. There’s an expectation [from the officials] that some things will be a little different with this being our second run of kits from Capelli Sport.
“We have 29 clubs in MLS this year with varying degrees of colors between primary and alternate kits, so including black and blue was a starting point, and then we had to consider what colors we could add that would have limited clashes with other teams. That’s why we ended up with neon yellow, and hot pink.
“The first two months involved some online meetings in between face-to-face meetings and Capelli Sport would come back with some questions for us to consider.
“Once we gave the green light in terms of design and color, we reviewed samples another four to six weeks later, and then we saw the finished product in person.”
Kelly, who was the referee representative two years ago, understands the value of having the officials’ opinions at the forefront.
“The thought process was that the officials are going to be wearing it, so they should have direct involvement in what it looks and feels like.
“Capelli Sport was new to the referee apparel space at the time, so we guided them in the right direction. We felt hearing the views of a referee, an assistant referee and having a female perspective were all critical to the solution.
“The officials [Logan, Nesbitt and Sibiga] canvassed people in their respective groups; not just about color, but from a design and functionality point of view: do they prefer a Velcro pocket, button pocket, or an overflap pocket, short sleeve or long sleeve, loose or elasticated cuffs?
“You’re never going to get 100 percent uniformity in terms of what people want, so you try to factor in as much detail as possible in terms of what benefits most of the group.
“It also needed to be breathable; the first cycle of jerseys had a mesh layer which was an important aspect in keeping referees and assistant referees comfortable on the field.
“Capelli Sport moved things around to accommodate the feedback from the officials, and the finished product is exactly what we were looking to achieve.”
The new jersey can be seen for the first time on Feb 25, when Nashville host New York City in the season opener.