Referee chief Peter Walton says Toronto FC's criticisms are valid
Earlier this week Toronto FC president and GM Kevin Payne made it clear that he was not happy that his team was consistently seeing the least experienced referees officiating his league matches.
Payne went as far as calling his team "lab rats" for younger referees to gain game experience.
“I’m not blaming the officials for our ills. Our ills are self-inflicted," Payne said. "However, we could have gotten some breaks in games if we had had more experienced referees.
“I think it is inappropriate to have one team subject to less experienced referees. The differences are dramatic," Payne continued. "I think in LA’s case, they have had one referee who had 10 games [of experience]. In New York’s case, they have had one or two who have been below 15. I don’t think Seattle has had anybody at 10 or under yet."
Peter Walton, the GM of the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), confirmed having conversations with Payne regarding his observations.
"The points he highlighted are most valid and may be a factor when future assignments are made," Walton said in a statement provided via email Wednesday. "Kevin accepts that PRO is working very hard for the development of our match officials and the benefit of all our clubs."
Toronto have seen referees with 10 or fewer MLS matches under their belts in half of their 10 regular-season matches played thus far in 2013.
The least experienced referee in a Seattle Sounders match was Geoff Gamble, who had 19 games entering Week 2.
On a closer look comparing the other teams cited by Payne, the Sounders have had 77.78 percent of their matches officiated by referees with experience in 50 or more MLS matches. NY and LA have seen referees who are veterans of 50 or more league matches 61.54 percent and 66.67 percent of the time in 2013, respectively. Meanwhile, three Toronto matches this year have been officiated by referees in the same category, good for 30 percent of TFC's regular season schedule thus far.
Referees in TFC's 10 regular season matches have averaged 40.1 matches of experience, compared to 79.85 for NY, 95.56 for LA and 100.22 for Seattle.
That average is set to come down even more this weekend when Toronto host the Columbus Crew at BMO Field (5 pm ET, MLS LIVE). TFC will see referee Jose Carlos Rivero, who has officiated 12 MLS matches in his career.
Steve Bottjer covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.