There’s an old saying that says if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.
Sadly this appears to apply to the current head of PRO (Professional Referee Organization) who is responsible for administering professional referee programmes in North America, including the MLS.
The issue concerns an interview given to ESPN sports by the head of PRO, Peter Walton. Mr Walton is also a former UK Premier League referee and a very poor one at that.
He was commenting on a decision by referee Martin Atkinson in the Arsenal vs. Liverpool game last weekend. During the game Mr Atkinson blew for a foul on Liverpool player Luis Suarez. Suarez quickly got to his feet and restarted play which ultimately resulted in a goal.
As Mr. Atkinson had already blown for a free kick and was intent on cautioning the Arsenal player (yellow card), he (the referee) was obligated by the Laws of the Game, regardless of how advantageous the quick restart might have been to Liverpool, NOT to allow the restart until the caution was administered.
The decision caused consternation among the Liverpool supporters and players who felt, wrongly, that the advantage should have been allowed and a caution issued later. However, once the referee stopped the play for the offense, which he deemed cautionable, he had no option but to delay the restart until the caution was administered.
IFAB Interpretation of the Laws of the Game state the following:
“Delaying the restart of play to issue a card.”
“Once the referee has decided to issue a card, whether to caution or send off a player, play must not be restarted until the sanction has been administered.”
However, during his interview on ESPN, Mr. Walton enthusiastically agreed with the commentators that the referee Atkinson could have “ABSOLUTELY” allowed for the restart to proceed and administer the caution after the goal has been scored.
Well, Peter Walton, YOU ARE WRONG and Martin Atkinson was 100% correct.
On their website the Professional Referee Organization states that it is an “independent company responsible for administering professional referee programmes in North America.”
PRO goes on to say:
“We are dedicated to the identification, training, assessment, assignment, and employment of male and female professional soccer officials. We provide our services to North American professional soccer leagues, CONCACAF and FIFA competitions.”
Ironically, the above represents the mission statement of the organisation headed by the man who appears not to know the LOTG himself. In his interview on ESPN, he criticised Martin Atkinson for doing his job correctly. This is scandalous. It’s a disgrace and needs to be corrected immediately.
How can the US Soccer Federation employ such incompetent people?
How can they (US Soccer federation) allow such people to contaminate their referees?
Who is responsible for recruiting second-rate people for first class jobs?
The job is difficult enough without the likes of Peter Walton peddling wrong advice on the Laws of the Game and sowing confusion among the referees and the public.
Regardless of how unfair you might feel this situation was, Mr. Walton, referee Atkinson was ABSOLUTELY correct and your comments about his decision WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
Mr Walton, you must do the honourable thing and resign before you do any more damage.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: In response to our request to address the apparent discrepancy between what the Laws of the Game state and Mr. Walton’s statements, PRO issued the following statement:
Dear Dr. Sweeney,
Thank you for raising this point. Once Mr. Walton saw a recording of the program, he realized that he had made an error with his explanation of the incident to which you refer.
What he should have said is covered in the law (as you described), however Mr. Walton was trying to say that an opportunity to score through an advantage was perhaps more important than stopping play for a caution.
Many thanks for your observation and comment.