The union representing soccer referees in Major League Soccer are criticizing comments made by Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini after his team’s playoff elimination on the weekend.
The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) called Sartini’s post-match comments “disgusting” and claims that he has taken the rhetoric against officials to a “dangerous new level.”
Sartini was kicked out of the game and expressed his displeasure with the refereeing of Tim Ford by saying afterwards: “If they found [Ford] in False Creek then I’m going to be a suspect. I’m not saying that I would do it, I’m saying I’m the first suspect — it’s different.”
Sartini made it clear he was joking and did add that he got along with Ford personally. But he also called Ford’s work refereeing the crucial game a “disaster.”
The Whitecaps lost 1-0 to Los Angeles FC on Sunday courtesy a debatable penalty from league top scorer Denis Bouanga.
Daily Hive sports journalist Har Johal was at the press conference where Sartini made the comments and said it was clear to everyone in the room they weren’t meant as a threat. Still, she expects he will be sanctioned.
“I think Major League Soccer will come down with a fine and a suspension. How long and how big? I’m not sure,” she said.
‘Not surprised’ union wants incident reviewed
Johal said the strong response from the PSRA is understandable.
“In this day and age, there’s a lot of talk and threats made against referees,” she said.
“They want to defend their officials and support them. So I completely understand where they’re coming and not surprised that they obviously want the league to review what happened.”
Vancouver’s players and coaching staff were upset with the decision to award the game-winning penalty, as well as Ford’s collision with Whitecaps midfielder Alessandro Schöpf in stoppage time, which prevented the Austrian from taking a shot that could have potentially tied the game.
The collision left Schöpf left lying on the ground as LAFC counter-attacked and scored an apparent second goal that was called back for offside.
Sartini received a red card and was sent off for objecting to Ford initially awarding the goal. He will automatically miss the first game of next season.
The Italian first took over as the Whitecaps interim coach in 2021 and recently signed a new contract through to 2025.
Johal said it will be interesting to see if Ford works any more playoff games this season given the controversies on Sunday.
“I thought Tim Ford was not good,” she said. “He had a bad day and … he did not have command of the game.”