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Archive for the ‘CBA Negotiations’ Category

Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement expires tonight, but the players won’t be striking — yet.

The players union released this statement today:

Bethesda, MD (Thursday, February 25, 2010) – The Major League Soccer Players Union (the “Union”) today announced that the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and Major League Soccer (“MLS”) will not be extended past the February 25 deadline previously set by the Union and MLS.

“Effective at midnight tonight, our collective bargaining agreement with MLS will expire,” said Union Executive Director Bob Foose.

Foose added that, “while we expect that negotiations with MLS will resume at some point, there simply hasn’t been enough progress made in the negotiations to date to warrant an extension of the old agreement. We have advised our players to keep working for the time being, but as of Friday they will be doing so without a CBA. In the meantime, all options are being considered as the process continues. We are completely committed to forging real changes to the way MLS players are treated.”

In response, the league reiterated its previous stance by releasing this statement today.

Basically, nothing happened. The deadline came. The deadline went. They didn’t extend the contract. The possibility of a strike still lingers above everyone’s head. Go us. Feel free to rant in the comments below.

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How soon before we see the Union line up like this in Philly?

If Major League Soccer players strike, it could be a disaster for Philadelphia Union.

An expansion franchise needs momentum from the get-go. Right now, the Union have it. Opening day is a month away. Their stadium in Chester is progressing. Philadelphia’s going to host the final World Cup tune-up for the U.S. National Team. People are excited. Philadelphia soccer is on the way up.

But a strike that delays the MLS season could kill that.

When sabers rattled this weekend over the league’s failure to meet the players’ demands for free agency and guaranteed contracts,  it became very clear that a strike remains possible. The league responded by saying they’ve offered to spend another $60 million on players and pledging to start the season without a new labor contract. (For more on free agency and the other key issues, click here.)

None of this is good for soccer fans in the Delaware Valley.

Philadelphia isn’t Seattle or Toronto, with a stadium accessible by public transit in the heart of an international city. The real models for the Union are the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. Like the Union, each has a stadium outside the nearest major city, has major league teams in the big four sports, and isn’t what you’d call an “international city.” For each, the stadium is a singular destination. (Check out my 2007 story for more on the comparison.)

Chicago’s Toyota Park, for example, sits in the middle of an industrial nowhere. You go there, and then you go home. Few dinner options afterward, no walking to the train, one lonely pub on the drive home.  It’s out of the way for most people. It’s a great place to watch a game, but that’s about it.

Sound at all like Chester? (more…)

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All the talk about a Major League Soccer strike or lockout may come down to a single concept: Free agency.

Larentowicz, trapped in contract limbo

Right now, MLS players can’t sign with another MLS team after their contracts expire unless their team lets them. That’s why a guy like West Chester’s Jeff Larentowicz needed a trade to leave New England, despite having played out his contract. No major American sports league or foreign soccer league restricts their players like this.

That’s why there could be a lockout or strike when the current MLS collecting bargaining agreement expires on Jan. 31,  delaying or even ending Philadelphia Union’s inaugural season before it starts.

Players say the league flouts FIFA regulations on player contracts. The league says FIFA is OK with them. FIFA avoided the dispute, likely because it’s largely irrelevant in this case. Why?

European leagues are not the model for MLS. The NFL is. With stable, profitable franchises and competitive parity, the NFL has no Portsmouth or Leeds collapsing into financial oblivion. Even small market teams like Jacksonville and Buffalo compete. To succeed long-term, the MLS must become like the NFL, with its revenue sharing, player acquisition system, stadium controls and competitive parity.

MLS has followed nearly every best practice of American sports leagues, but it holds onto an anachronistic sports management concept by not allowing free agency. This is basically the same as baseball’s old reserve clause, which was struck down by a court arbitrator in 1975. MLS may have already won in court, but American sports history shows that means little. Baseball and football players eventually won free agency, but they needed labor battles to get there.

MLS players have one good argument: Free agency. Their other points don’t fly in American sports. Here’s why and how it breaks down.

(more…)

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In a statement released Tuesday by the international players organization FIFPro, Landon Donovan and Kasey Keller have criticized the MLS for how it is handling negotiations with the Players Union for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The MLS has threatened to lock players out if a deal is not reached by February 1st.

A lock out would effectively shut down the league as preparations for the 2010 World Cup begin to gather steam.

The Players Union argues that, for the MLS, a “deal” means a continuation of the status quo.

Said Keller, who has been outspoken on this issue on his blog, “What we are looking for are the same basic rights that players enjoy in other leagues around the world . . . We have made great strides in developing the game in the United States. But we can’t truly compete internationally, either for players or fans, with a system that is so radically different than other leagues around the world.”

Donovan added, “the league shutting down MLS in February would do real damage to the development of the game in the United States and to our efforts to prepare for South Africa. It is difficult to understand why the owners would take this course, when all we are asking for are the same rights enjoyed by other players around the world, not just in the biggest leagues, but in leagues of all sizes.” (more…)

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