> "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...*)
(*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.