Replacement referee for Lionel Messi's Inter Miami match against Orlando switched due to 'potential conflict'

As Inter Miami prepare to host Orlando City SC in a rivalry match, there has been a slight shift to the referees that will call the game. Initially, Brazilian referee Guilherme Ceretta de Lima was scheduled to be the head referee but after pictures of him on Instagram wearing an Inter Miami jersey made the rounds on social media, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) has changed the assignment and Jamie Herrera will now serve as the head referee.

In a statement to the Athletic, PRO disclosed their reasoning behind the change saying, “Referee Guilherme Ceretta was removed from the game due to a potential conflict.”

While it’s only natural for referees to have their own allegiances, standard practice is to not officiate a match that they have a possible conflict of interest in, but everything is far from standard at the moment. Replacement referees are being utilized for the second consecutive week as the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) has been locked out after the expiration of their labor agreement with PRO on Feb. 12. Since then, while there have been further discussions to come to a new agreement, the PSRA, and PRO are still far apart leading to a scramble each week to find officials for league matches.

Only last week there was a game-changing incident where Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado was given a second yellow card and dismissed for a phantom foul on Sergio Busquets while the Galaxy were leading 1-0. Lionel Messi ended up using the man advantage to score a goal bringing the match level for an eventual draw. Following a review by the league’s independent review panel, that second yellow card was rescinded and Delgado is now available for the Galaxy’s next match.

Missed decisions happen everywhere, but with an ongoing labor dispute, they take on a larger profile. Margins are thin and those points could matter at the end of the season making the need to make the right decisions a critical one. It’s harder to do that when an official is potentially biased and while PRO did the correct thing and changed the head referee for this rivalry match, what would’ve happened if it wasn’t caught? Officiating Messi is quite different than college soccer and only experience will prepare the replacement officials for what they face.

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