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Messi plays but the referees hit him with an inflatable pig

Messi plays but the referees hit him with an inflatable pig

The inflatable pig at a referee's protest in front of Major League Soccer headquarters in New York.Image: Cornerstone

Play has returned to Major League Soccer, despite the referees' strike. This is the reason behind the strange situation in the league of Messi and his teammates.

February 22, 2024, 10:17 amFebruary 22, 2024 at 1:13 pm

Adrian Burgler
Adrian Burgler

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The new season of Major League Soccer kicked off on Thursday evening. Lionel Messi and Inter Miami won their opening match against Real Salt Lake 2-0. Although the Argentine world champion remained scoreless, he created the spectacle of the match when he smashed the ball over a prone opponent.

But the biggest topic of conversation at the start of the season in the best soccer league in the United States of America is the referees. Or rather, the absence of rulers. Because they are on strike at the moment.

The reason is the dispute over the new collective labor agreement. The old “collective bargaining agreement,” as these contracts are called in the United States, expired on January 15. Since then no agreement has been reached. Unsurprisingly, the conflict revolves around demands related to wages. The Professional Referees Organization (PRO), which regulates and is responsible for referee appointments in Major League Soccer, has offered referees a pay increase of about three percent. On the other hand, the Referees' Association (PSRA) is demanding a pay rise of up to 90 percent – especially for lower-paid referees such as assistant referees or fourth officials.

Since there has been no rapprochement between the two parties in recent weeks, Major League Soccer referees have officially gone on strike. Some of them appeared outside the association's headquarters in New York on Wednesday evening to protest. Not only did they put their years of experience in handling whistles to good use, but they also attracted attention with an outlandish act. A large inflatable pig was also placed directly in front of the headquarters. The “business pig” was holding a bag of money in one hand and crushing the referee with the other.

To ensure matches can be played at the start of the MLS season, PRO 64 has organized substitute referees. Some of these come from lower US leagues, from referee support programs, or from South America and Europe.

But this in turn causes dissatisfaction among players. The Major League Soccer Sports Players Association (MLSPA) issued a statement expressing its displeasure with the current situation. Players fear that the influence of substitute referees will not only affect the level of matches, but also the possibility of increasing injuries among players.

They call on the American Football League and the Referees Organization to resume negotiations with the Referees Association.

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