Referees: The Forgotten Talent Development

Why referee development is just as important as player and team growth
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, December 06, 2012

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

Believe it or not, it was a Canadian-filled MLS Cup.

Even though André Hainault didn’t make it onto the pitch for Houston in last weekend’s MLS Cup, there was still something to be happy about as a fan of Canadian soccer, because Canadian Silviu Petrescu, along with Darren Clarke, was in charge of the game. This was in addition to Petrescu winning MLS Referee of the Year – the first Canadian to ever accomplish the feat.

Referees are just as important as the other 22 guys on the pitch, as their job is to ensure that the game doesn’t get out of hand and is as clean as possible. While MLS referees often get criticized, mistakes get made everywhere. And, as I heard somewhere once: “No matter where you go in the world, people will complain that the taxes are too high, and that the referees are too poor.”

No matter if you are a player, coach or referee, the only way you can improve is if you get opportunities. And for that reason, it’s easier being optimistic for aspiring Canadian referees.

Compared to the barren days before Toronto FC entered MLS, there are now plenty of opportunities for Canadian refs since there are not only three MLS teams needing referees and assistant referees, but also an NASL team in Edmonton, with Ottawa coming along soon. This positive trend is furthered with a number of all-American MLS games, with one of the four officials being Canadian.

The establishment of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) is another great step as it has given the Canadian professional referees, along with their American counterparts, an organization that has a clear focus on the challenges and opportunities for pro referees.

This development is important as all the referees in charge of high school, college and Canadian Soccer League games need to see that their hard work and commitment to the game can be rewarded with games at a higher level.

Players and referees alike will perform better and more consistently the more experience they get. As such, a healthy, strong and expanding second and third tier is of the utmost importance, as the referees get more opportunities to test themselves and minimize their mistakes before getting to MLS.

Yes, the referees make mistakes and everyone wants a clean game, where you hardly notice the official in charge, but sometimes the expectations seem to be un-human. If you haven’t noticed, the referees are indeed human, not robots, and as such they will not be perfect. But just as players miss sitters, make hazardous tackles, and other disappointing or unintelligent actions, so will referees once in a while.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.