Learning to walk

> "We have advised our players to report to camp as planned. In the meantime, we will continue to meet with the league to determine if an agreement can be reached. As of this date, however, we have no agreement on a new CBA."
>
> - MLS Players' Union in a statement released last Thursday

So, there you have it. The Union has made an offer and is moving ahead with negotiations, now it's on the owners to reject or accept said offer by next Sunday's deadline to agree to a new CBA.

By advising its players "to report to camp as planned," the Union has essentially told the owners that they won't strike, but the league/owners have yet to guarantee that they won't lock the players out. I've already shared my views on what I think any sort of extended work stoppage would do to the league (i.e., destroy it...) so I'll spare you the usual diatribe and offer a fresher take -- from the point of view of Fire owner Andrew Hauptman.

(*Note -- The following is written from "inside the mind" of Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. These are not his actual thoughts, just a crude guess at what the man in charge of the Fire might be thinking about the CBA these days...*) The players are demanding guaranteed contracts, free agency, and the ability to negotiate with teams instead of MLS? This confuses me. Here I am, shelling out millions to field a professional soccer team in a country that at best has apathetic feelings towards the game and my players are making demands that would make it even harder for me to field a successful roster and turn somewhat of a profit? I won't lie, I don't understand this.

Sure, I get the fact that the players want their rights, but I'm a little incredulous that they're making these demands right now. I'm thinking that the league might not be able to swing free agency. I'm thinking about the hole that an increased salary cap would burn in my wallet. I'm thinking that the Players' Union's demands would make my life as a MLS owner significantly harder. What I'm trying to say is that there is no way I'm giving in.

(*That was Andrew Hauptman pre-Thursday's Union announcement detailing that it's asking the players to report to camp -- essentially ending any possibility that the players will go on strike. Below are Andrew's thoughts after hearing that news...*)

YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

(*Sticks tongue out at Players' Union*)

We have all the leverage! We have all the leverage! Na-na-na-na-na, we have all the leverage!!!

The ball's in my court now. My fellow owners and I can accept your offer, or we can reject it and create a proposal more beneficial to us -- knowing full well that as long as we don't complete tear up your proposal you'll report to camp when it begins. Suddenly the millions of dollars that I've (according to a source with knowledge of the situation) been losing every year don't sting as much. The CBA isn't going to kill me! In fact, I might not even have to give that much up. I'm going crazy!!

(*Remembers fact that if owners do indeed lockout the players and the work stoppage extends into the season he will lose much more on the Fire than he ever has before...*)

Ok, so maybe I overreacted a bit a second ago. The owners and I can't afford to lockout the players for any extended period of time. We know that, the players know that, the league knows that. So let's get a deal done. We'll give them more guaranteed contracts (though not all deals will be fully guaranteed...) and the right to negotiate with individual teams. Free agency? Better luck next time Union. That power is staying with the owners -- and the league -- this time around.

(*End of Andrew Hauptman's "take" on things. Back to real life and writing with my own voice...*)

Call me an optimist, but I think a deal gets done by January 31st and a lockout is avoided. But I'm thinking the Players' Union will be giving in on a lot of its demands. As I mentioned above (back when I was Andrew Hauptman) I think that the league will start to guarantee more contracts and give players the right to negotiate with individual teams. I don't think free agency will be ceded to the players just yet though. Call it a gut feeling. And the salary cap will go up, thought probably not by too much.

I think that the changes to this CBA won't be as big as the Union wants them to be. But at this point in the development of MLS, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Huge change now would create instability later and problems would inevitably arise. Let's leave those problems for a day when the league is more entrenched in the American (and Canadian...) psyche. For now, it would be best to just take a couple of baby steps.

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  • What in the world are you talking about?

    The Union simply told the players to report to camp, as normal.

    From that, you say:

    "there you have it. The Union has made an offer and is moving ahead with negotiations, now it's on the owners to reject or decline said offer"

    What? Huh?

    How do you get "the union has made an offer" out of "the union has told the players to report"?

    Your characterization that the union has made a final offer and the league must either accept it or decline it is utter hogwash, simply made up out of thin air.

  • And what does "it's on the owners to reject or decline said offer"

    If they rejct it, is that different from declining it?

    Hello? Is this too hard for you?

  • In reply to FutsalFred:

    My bad on the huge mistake on word choice. The error has been fixed.

    And I did not make up the fact that the Union has made an offer. I got that from a report in the Toronto Sun that stated that the Union had made an offer. I definitely should have cited that report in the post. If you're interested in checking it out, I've linked to it below.
    And in no way was I trying to imply that the union had made a final offer to the league, just that the onus is now on the league to accept the offer or decline it and renegotiate further.

    Here's the link: http://www.torontosun.com/sports/soccer/2010/01/22/12567016-sun.html

  • In reply to FutsalFred:

    Haha, that was hilarious. Na-Na-Na-Na-Na We have all the leverage!
    Picturing Hauptmann doing that cracks me up. But be careful Sam, he's liable to write you another letter!

  • I couldn't even finish this article. Take your creative writing somewhere else please.

  • I liked the "creative writing" as you called it merwin. Sam makes a lot of sense out of what is happening, even if his take is fictional. Sam recommended the book "Soccernomics" a month or so ago- give it a try. I immediately ordered it after Sam's reco and the book is great- American soccer has a great chance to take off, but it can't follow the bankrupting policies of other leagues.

    As a Fire season ticket holder, I want the team to take the field this year. Everything is give and take, and everbody loses here if no deal is reached.

  • Futsol and Merwin, you guys need to have a little imagination. Please go make your comments somewhere else.

    Thanks Sam for saying out loud what needs to be said.

  • i dont know...this whole "writing what the guys thinking" thing is kinda getting alittle weird for me...thats just me though

  • I personally think the players need to stick to their guns. Having players only have $12k guaranteed for a full season is worse than shameful. Not only that, with $500 fines for yellows with the quality of referee that has been displayed lately, it's no wonder that the good kids are bailing for Europe. If you want a quality product, you've got to pay for it or you'll end up with a development league.

    So owners... pay for it, and we will come. Trust me.

    @Sam - thanks for stepping out, bro. You're a tough read some days for me [ok, most days], but it's articles like this that give me hope. You don't need to be like Ives or anyone else. Do your thing.

  • In reply to Graeme:

    They can't expect to be like Europe right now. If they do then they will be out of a job. There is no way that the owners are making good money from any team and that's with the way it is now. If the players make more money, than the owners will have to pay more money that they aren't making. Sure players should be making more but then again they are playing soccer for a living in a country that doesn't care about soccer. So when the product starts to look like quality soccer then maybe the owners will pay them. But there is no way that any of you guys are going to sit and watch RSL play FC Dallas on ESPN. I have a hard time watching the Fire play sometimes because the product is not good. I have to try and not watch EPL games before watching a Fire game because they can barely make 5 passes in a row.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I will sit and watch RSL play Dallas on ESPN.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I would rather watch a girls high school game...

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    So how exactly will MLS ever get to the level of European football when the "fans" who supposedly like the game don't support the league?

    The product will never start looking like quality soccer unless fans in America begin to realize that it's not going to just magically be the EPL overnight. Fans like you are part of the problem.

    Have fun at the girls high school game....I'll be watching every game on Direct Kick and ESPN.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I know it won't be the EPL overnight. I also know that it won't be the EPL for a long time. IMO, I don't think that the owners are not in this because they love the clubs they own and all they want to see is their club win trophies. I think that they are in this to make a profit of some sort which I don't think that they are doing at the moment. So when the players association comes in and gives a list of things that they want I think the owners are going to respond with a list that looks a little different than theirs. So you watch your Direct Kick and I'll watch the Fire and my local high school girls teams.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    @ Joe - you completely miss the point, bro. A fan doesn't give a crap about how much money the owner makes. The average joe cares about paying $30 to go see a quality product and if you don't provide that, then you won't get a repeat customer. And if you're paying kids $12k to play football for an ENTIRE SEASON, you're not going to get a quality product. Spend more on quality players and you'll get more revenues in repeat customers, season ticket holders, merch sales, etc. because people WANT to come.

    And yes, I'd watch FCD & RSL on ESPN any time as well. And if you watch the EPL, then you see the great quality football that the teams facing relegation put out on the pitch in comparison to the top 4, which just reinforces the point. You've got to pay for quality.

  • In reply to Graeme:

    Girls high school soccer is free. Joe loves it.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I am actually a season ticket holder so calm it down.

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