NASL Commish addresses Cosmos’ officiating complaints, clarifies PRO relationship


The New York Cosmos stayed true to their word, appealing a red card decision on Marcos Senna following the team’s abrupt 2-2 draw against Tampa Bay this weekend.

NASL has only just begun looking into the incident, with their first official report on the judgment set for Monday evening.  However, the strong words of head coach Giovanni Savarese did not fall on deaf ears.  In fact, NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson tells EOS he will be personally looking into the matter this week.

“It’s something that happens on any given weekend around the world,” he said.  “Coaches are upset about things.  Sometimes they are upset about officials.”

While that may be the case, Peterson did take issue with the way Savarese expressed his disappointment.

“I think we have to be careful about the type of criticism we have,” he observed.  “I am not trying to censor anything, but sometimes I think you will find that the emotions get a little carried away.  People say things that maybe aren’t quite accurate or true actually.”

Savarese called out both the league’s officiating and NASL for what he perceives to be a rash of one-sided calls designed to go against the Cosmos.  Peterson labeled his decision to go public with his criticism “unfortunate.”

“There is always room for improvement in every aspect of what we are doing in this league,” Peterson contends.

The accusation opened up a can of worms. Cosmos fans and several NASL followers began dissecting the league’s relationship with the Pro Referee Organization (PRO), citing a perceived bias — namely, deference to Major League Soccer.  Both NASL and MLS employ the organization to officiate their matches.

Peterson shed some light on how that works.

“The [USSF] has the responsibility of providing officials for the professional leagues and for other amateur competitions,” he began.  “The Federation decided a few years ago that they, along with Major League Soccer, felt there needed to be a development aspect to the officials, so they jointly created this organization PRO.  PRO, who is really a vendor if you will, has been assigned the responsibility to assigning officials for us and developing officials, so instead of going through the Federation, we pay PRO.  We pay PRO for our officials, for their travel and they assign officials for us.”

As Peterson describes, PRO provides a grading system for each of their referees — a pool of about 30 full time officials.  On any given weekend, Peterson estimates 15 matches taking place between NASL and MLS — more than enough to accommodate the weekly needs of both leagues.  As it goes, the NASL makes requests for the highest rated officials possible, and it is up to PRO to provide them.

“Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t, for various reasons,” Peterson acknowledges.  “We are still working on what that agreement should look like.”

One way the league hopes to improve their relationship with PRO is by possibly hiring someone in house to oversee officiating and deal directly with the organization.  “I think we have started to settle in on the idea that we are probably going to need a little bit more experience in that area on a league perspective,” he explained.  “How can we interact with them on a higher level, officials to officials?   Do we need our own director of officiating to deal with that organization if that is what we are going to deal with in this country, to not only assure we get the best officials available, but those officials are officiating the way we think is right?  There could be differing philosophies and that can effect officiating.”

While several fans may think otherwise, Peterson expressed his pleasure in the overall relationship between the NASL and their officials.  “Week in and week out, officials generally do a pretty good job,” he said.

However, like so many things soccer in America, he still sees room for improvement.

“I am a little surprised where we are with officials in this country,” he stated.  “After playing soccer for so long and so many people, to only have 30 [full time officials] seems a little odd, but it is what we are dealing with now and we will continue to work on it to get the best possible officials for our matches.”


  • Pro Refs are terrible.

    These aren’t full time jobs and that’s always a problem. ! Pro refs was so hard up for cash that he was collecting unemployment and arrested for it last week.

  • Dave from Dix Hills

    Agree. PRO is just terrible. Surprised that arrest didn’t get much play here!

  • jspech

    This article just cements the seedy relationship between USSF & MLS with how PRO was developed as a company. How could the governing body cede power or allow a league to be involve in developing those who will police the game on field? All this explains Garber’s reaction to Klingsman.
    Is there a pay difference for refs when officiating games in USLPro, NASL, or MLS?

  • Zardoz

    PRO is run partly by MLS?

    There’s ur problem. Trying to take down flagship club from competing league in biggest metro market.

    • slowleftarm

      Um, this team draws 4k a game and that’s without NYCFC even in the league yet. MLS has bigger things to worry about than a minor league game at Hofstra.

  • Pablo

    I am curious. Why is the NASL compelled to use the referees from PRO? I don’t believe there’s an obligation to use them. The only thing the NASL must make certain is that the refs used meet certain training/credentials. If there are only 30 refs, should the NASL pursue the creation of more refs to work specifically with their league? Something to consider.

    • Pablo

      Just to factor in, next year with 12 teams and 6 games almost every week, the league will need a minimum of 24 referee just for themselves. And by the time they hit 16 teams with 8 games a week or even 20 teams with 10 games a week, the league will need about 32 to 40 referees respectively by then just serving the NASL. Maybe it’s an opportunistic moment for the NASL to explore a referee expansion as well.

  • slowleftarm

    Geez, is this a football team or a conspiracy club? Apparently, everyone is out to get Hempstead Cosmos.

    • Don Garbage

      Have you seen how i react to someone bashing the league. You think i want the NY Cosmos to succeed your crazy. I have owners that put down 100 Million & i need to protect that investment, so anything we can do to slow down the Cosmos is fine with me.

  • Jason

    1 – Fans always whine and think everybody’s out to get their team when it doesn’t win
    2 – Good luck getting good officials who AREN’T under PRO’s umbrella. I know you think you can do everything just because you want to do it, but realistically? No.
    3 – Cosmofan is so funny. Yeah, MLS is so worried about the possibility you might sign Raul that they’re actively trying to undermine you.
    4 – The Cosmos are 11-6-9. I guess there have been terrible referees for the six games they lost and any draws they should have won. Else they’d be 26-0-0, obviously. Because they’re the Cosmos.
    5 – There WERE full-time officials. Did it solve the problem? No. And there’s not enough money to make them ALL full-time officials.

    Try again, Cosmofans.

  • chepe pedos

    I hope the NASL goes on and hire good foreign refs…. MLS and NASL teams are at the same level, sorry MLS fans …its true…

    • LOL

      You have to have some sort of mental deficiency to even post that.