The UK's Sun newspaper revealed two pieces of news on Saturday, November 26: the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) - the body that oversees refereeing in North America's professional soccer leagues - is looking for a new general manager, and the role has been offered to Howard Webb.
Or as The Sun phrased it:
HOWARD WEBB has been offered a job as head of referees in America’s MLS.
PRO, in a statement to mlssoccer.com, revealed The Sun's news is...less than half right:
The Professional Referees Organization is conducting a search for a senior executive who would oversee the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) project. Peter Walton, the general manager of PRO since its inception in 2012, will continue in his role managing the professional referee programs in North America. Once hired, the new senior executive will report to Walton.
The report from Simon Borg goes on to explain Webb is "one of several candidates" for the position that is not "head of referees in America's MLS".
Howard Webb is most famous for refereeing the 2010 World Cup final, and not sending off Nigel de Jong.
MLS has long asked its referees to facilitate a robust style of play in the playoffs. Webb and MLS might be well matched.
Of course, Webb - or whichever candidate wins the job of senior executive responsible for VAR at PRO - might usher in an era of greater consistency in refereeing in MLS (and around the world, since the VAR initiative is a global soccer project).
As revealed by PRO's response to The Sun's scoop, the real news is PRO is deepening its commitment to VAR. Video-assisted refereeing got its first true deployment in professional competitive soccer in North America this year, via a limited test run in a handful of New York Red Bulls II matches in USL (the third tier of US soccer).
The test was not without controversy: a video-reviewed decision was overturned by USL's disciplinary committee without any real explanation. But experiments continue worldwide. Per mlssoccer.com, it would seem MLS intends to remain part of VAR's vanguard:
MLS is looking to implement [VAR] in the near future.