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NWSL officials penalized for ‘egregious’ no-goal call in Gotham game

NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Ifeoma Onumonu reacts during the first half against Angel City FC. (John Jones/USA TODAY Sports)

Sunday’s match between Angel City FC and NJ/NY Gotham FC brought an early officiating controversy.

While Angel City eventually won 3-1, Gotham appeared to strike first in the 12th minute. But while the ball clearly crossed the goal line, referees did not signal for a goal for the home team, to the dismay of Gotham players.

The Professional Referee Organization, which supplies the NWSL with referees, released a statement Monday about the no-call, calling it an “egregious officiating error.”

“A goal was incorrectly not awarded to NJ/NY Gotham FC after the ball had crossed the goal line between the goal posts,” the statement said. “The match officials misjudged where the ball had crossed the goal line, and wrongly awarded a corner kick to NJ/NY Gotham FC.”

As a result, PRO said officials involved in the error have been removed from their next PRO assignments.

This isn’t the first time this season that officiating has been called into question, with former Washington Spirit coach Kris Ward among those calling out the NWSL’s officiating.

Most of PRO’s NWSL referees also work other jobs, and they do not have a collective bargaining agreement. The lack of CBA could change, though, with PRO announcing in July that it had withdrawn its appeal of the Professional Soccer Referees Association’s attempt to unionize.

The NWSL also has taken steps as a result of the critiques, with the league opting to introduce VAR during the 2023 season. The introduction of VAR would mean that no-goal calls like that on Sunday would go under review.

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman called VAR the “single most important thing” that the league could do to improve officiating in the league, but also spoke about other steps the league is taking to improve officiating.

“Really, it’s not only VAR for next season,” Berman said. “We are taking a much more proactive approach in partnering with PRO so that our players, our coaches, our chief soccer officers start to increase their confidence with how this is being implemented and also have an opportunity to have feedback on ways that we can improve.”