CBA Update

GOLD CUP PEREZ

In the last 20+ years, every one of the so-called "major" sports leagues in America has gone through some sort of work stoppage. Whether it was the NFL in 1987, MLB in 1994, the NBA in 1998 or the NHL in 2004, every stoppage damaged the respective leagues. Attendance declined, playoffs were canceled, interest levels dropped and it took time (and in the case of baseball, two steroid-fueled power hitters) to get the leagues back to their pre-work stoppage levels of success.

But those leagues were all established successes at the time of their strikes/lockouts. They had a large, broad base of fans and -- ultimately -- could afford to sit out part of the season due to a labor spat. Unfortunately, MLS does not have that luxury. Sure, the league is growing. But it's not yet big enough so that it could quickly and successfully bounce back from a work stoppage. That -- along with the fact that 2010 is a World Cup year -- is why it's so imperative that the Players' Union and the league come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by January 31st.

"I think a deal has got to get done for a number of reasons," said Fire midfielder -- and Union rep -- Logan Pause. "I think any sort of work stoppage will be extremely detrimental to this league. We want to play. That's not an issue. It's just about getting things worked out."
Surprisingly, financial issues haven't been a sticking point in negotiations -- which have been ongoing for months. What the sides can't agree on is the extent to which players will be granted simple, FIFA mandated rights.

Namely, players are demanding the following:

- Guaranteed contracts. Almost 80% of players in the league do not have guaranteed deals.

- To be able to enter contracts with their specific team. Currently, MLS owns all the player contracts in the league. This issue has led some to go as far as to call MLS a "cartel."

- To be able to freely negotiate with other teams once a player's contract has expired. Under the present system, clubs can hold a player's rights even if his contract with the team has ended.

- The right to consent to (or decline) a transfer. Under the current CBA, players can be transferred (traded) to another club within the league without his consent. This can occur even if the transfer is international.

So far the league and the players aren't backing down from their stances on these issues. So unless there's some serious progress made before the 31st it looks like the league could be headed for a work stoppage (and I'll say it again, that would be a COMPLETE disaster for pro soccer in North America).

"We're fighting to be treated like players in every other league across the world," Pause said. "All the players in the league are cohesive and staying together. We're ready to have some things change and bring some rights to the players."

Comments

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  • As much as I agree with what the players are asking for, I'm not confident that MLS execs feel they are at a point in MLS' development to offer it. Please no work stoppage!

  • As much as I agree with what the players are asking for, I'm not confident that MLS execs feel they are at a point in MLS' development to offer it. Please no work stoppage!

  • If they can't come to terms I say change the salary cap to 5M and extend the current CBA for 1 year.

  • This is a tough situation. The players need to be careful to not cut off their nose despite their face. Yes, I think that their demands are mostly reasonable, but I can't see how all of them can be implemented immediately, and not have some effect on the financial health of the league.

  • I'm fundamentally with the players on this but I think at this point that it significantly impacts the competitive balance of the league. Without enough room under the cap to allow teams in less desirable locales (no offense KC and COlumbus) to sign first tier free agents.

    But above all else PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE NO WORK STOPPAGE!!!!!!!

  • If there is a strike there will be no more MLS. Do you think the owners care if there is a strike? There is no way that NE makes money. Dallas, I think not. They all want "no trade clauses" too? They are lucky enough to be playing professional soccer in the US. If they want that then they can go over seas.

  • At what point is a work stoppage relevant? The pre-season doesn't start for a few months, and it's sparsely covered at best. Yes, if a work stoppage cut into the regular season, it'd be pretty bad, but despite January 31 coming soon, if it doesn't get done until mid-February, I can't see how it'd be a disaster.

  • tacologic hit the nail on the head here. The only way a 'work stoppage' is an issue is if it cuts into the season. The players have been making noise lately about their being no stoppage (Jimmy Conrad in particular and now Logan both union reps), there will probably be a compromise. At this point I think many in the soccer press are over reacting to what appears to be standard posturing and working of the press during a sports labor issue.

    I'm surprised that this article didn't focus more on what Logan did say "I think a deal has got to get done for a number of reasons," said Fire midfielder -- and Union rep -- Logan Pause. "I think any sort of work stoppage will be extremely detrimental to this league. We want to play. That's not an issue. It's just about getting things worked out."

    That doesn't sound like saber rattling to me. Yeah they want their rights but they don't have the leverage and they aren't going to hurt the league over it.

  • Merwin, the NHL players said the same thing before their lockout. It was something like, "we want to play, but the mean NHL owners won't let us"

  • I'm assuming everyone was talking about the stoppage hurting if it went into the season. But if the players think they can play hardball and get what they want, they are in for a rude awakening...

  • The lock-out only becomes relevant when the first regular season game is cancelled. Pre-season training, however begins in February and that WILL be affected.

    As for Logan Pause, I would like the CBA to include language limiting the amount of senseless back passes.

  • I am of the opinion that it shouldn't go past 1/31/10 or it is detrimental. Messing with pre-season messes with the season.

    Also, I'd like to know what "financial issues haven't been a sticking point in negotiations" means. Does that mean that the players are willing to keep the salary cap at the level it is now, but they want these new rights, or my guess is they agree on the raise in the salary cap AND they want these new rights.

    They want to be treated like players in any other league in the world. The problem is soccer isn't loved here like it is everywhere else in the world. I'm not going to pretend to know the numbers behind all of the issues, but I do see lots of attendences of 10,000-14,000 and I don't know what those pay for.

    I really hope there's no work stoppage (read: stopping work, not anything before pre-season). I'd like to see as much coverage on this as possible so that I may be informed as to why the league died, if that happens.

  • Give the players their rights. They can't risk letting this go on any further. These four things seem relatively basic, except maybe the no-trade clause. Owners, play it safe. The payoff of taking a gamble here and playing hardball is not worth it. Not worth it at all. A strike would all but kill MLS, and it probably wouldn't help the Yanks either. Look, all of us here like the MLS, love the MLS, too much to see this happen. We need to look away.

  • before a stopage is it possible that they would use a outside arbitrator to solve this whole mess?

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