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MLS Labor Issues Heat Up

With less than a month before the collective bargaining agreement between MLS and its players is set to expire, the rhetoric is intensifying.

Earlier today, FIFPro -- a Netherlands-based organization created in 1965 that claims to represent pro players around the world -- issued this statement on its Web site, saying essentially that MLS is in violation of FIFA regulations concerning player contracts.

In a written response provided to the Insider, MLS President Mark Abbott said:

"The statement regarding MLS issued by the MLS players today contains many inaccuracies including the false assertion that MLS is not compliant with the FIFA regulations. MLS is in fact operating in compliance and the players are simply wrong on this point. Also, contrary to the Union's claims, it has been proven in federal court that the MLS business structure is legal and does not operate as a cartel. Moreover, any discussion about a lockout, players strike or other work stoppage is premature and frankly counterproductive to our ongoing mutual commitment to reach an agreement between management and the players. During the last 50 years, there have been multiple failed efforts to launch professional soccer in the United States and Canada. In order to avoid this fate, the MLS owners created a structure that has provided stability and growth during the last 15 years while creating opportunity for the sport. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the players regarding a new CBA."

FIFPro doesn't necessarily speak for the MLS players union, which is involved in negotiations with the league. (Or does it?) But with its comments, it has certainly shed more light on the major sticking points between the sides.

Where do you think this is headed?

By Steve Goff  |  January 5, 2010; 5:01 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Video: Dempsey's Goal

Comments

Is there any kind of written evidence from FIFA that MLS can show that the league is in fact compliant with FIFA rules?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | January 5, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

What a mess. The FIFPro release makes a bunch of (presumably accurate) statements but doesn't identify the FIFA rules that are supposed to be violated. For example: "almost 80% of players in MLS do not have guaranteed contracts." Does FIFA require that all player contracts be guaranteed?

On the other hand, Abbott's statement seems to treat this as a product of the union. Does FIFPro formally speak for the MLS players?

I suppose the first rule of union negotiations is that if you don't bargain deep into the 11th hour you left something on the table, but this doesn't sound any better than the stadium situation.

Posted by: zimbar | January 5, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Well, obviously the single entity structure scares the bejesus out of the players association. As well it should. But to be honest, thats really what sports leagues are, one business entity, not a group of businesses. Thats how they got in trouble with free agency and collusion in other sports, because if they are seperate businesses they can't do that. This allows them to have things like rights to players, limits on free agency, and salary caps, etc. Otherwise if MLS really was a free market i could just start up a team and get in the league.

If other leagues were smart they'd go the same way. But in soccer its not as if these players can't go play in USL or Mexico or Europe, etc. Don't sign a contract if you don't want to play. Now there may be some issues with options, etc. but maybe i'm totally in the wrong but i'm definitely not on the player's side with some of this stuff.

Then again its in MLS's best interests to raise the wage structure of the whole league and improve the product on the field if they are going to succeed in the long run. That will necessarily include guaranteed contracts and no trade clauses in the future to cater to certain players who can go anywhere and play. In fact thats really what happens now, you really think Beckham didn't get to choose where he went or veto any trades???

Posted by: Brian76 | January 5, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Well, obviously the single entity structure scares the bejesus out of the players association. As well it should. But to be honest, thats really what sports leagues are, one business entity, not a group of businesses. Thats how they got in trouble with free agency and collusion in other sports, because if they are seperate businesses they can't do that. This allows them to have things like rights to players, limits on free agency, and salary caps, etc. Otherwise if MLS really was a free market i could just start up a team and get in the league.

If other leagues were smart they'd go the same way. But in soccer its not as if these players can't go play in USL or Mexico or Europe, etc. Don't sign a contract if you don't want to play. Now there may be some issues with options, etc. but maybe i'm totally in the wrong but i'm definitely not on the player's side with some of this stuff.

Then again its in MLS's best interests to raise the wage structure of the whole league and improve the product on the field if they are going to succeed in the long run. That will necessarily include guaranteed contracts and no trade clauses in the future to cater to certain players who can go anywhere and play. In fact thats really what happens now, you really think Beckham didn't get to choose where he went or veto any trades???

Posted by: Brian76 | January 5, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Let the saber rattling begin!

Posted by: PabloChicago | January 5, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

FIFA doesn't issue written certificates of compliance, but the single-entity structure has been no secret. If FIFA had a problem with it, you would think they would have weighed in by now. Alternatively, if there was any chance of a favorable outcome you would think that the player's association would have filed some kind of complaint in the last dozen years.

Posted by: zimbar | January 5, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, the MLS players were paying attention when the NHL players went through this. Both the NHL and it's players suffered from their strike. I think it would be equally, or more destructive for MLS if a stoppage occured.

Posted by: pecanturtle | January 5, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The MLS needs to know how to let go a little. I can't say I'm the best informed about this issue, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the League is starting to walk on its own, and I think this is scary to those in charge. Just like USSF is scared that it is, in fact, the talent of players that is improving, and that their methods, espcially with youth development and the pursuit of coaches, is holding the program back.

The MLS needs to relinquish to some of the players demands, or this league will not hold, regardless of how tight fisted the economics or how sound the business plan.

Paying players will do FAR more for the league than adding a few cities.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | January 5, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: torrey151 | January 5, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

FIFA doesn't issue written certificates of compliance, but the single-entity structure has been no secret. If FIFA had a problem with it, you would think they would have weighed in by now.
------------------------------------------------------

I believe Sepp made some comment about MLS being in compliance, or at least that FIFA had no problems with MLS.

I hope it's not going towards a lockout. The league can't afford to alienate fans. However, it's always hard to see which side will blink first...and harder to imagine they'll see mutual interest in compromise.

Posted by: fischy | January 5, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, Goff's next post -- the video of Dempsey's "wonder-goal" -- isn't coming up.

Here's a link to the awesome highlights:

http://videos.sapo.pt/TasUKKCqDBGKPB1GCR6R

Posted by: fischy | January 5, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

All the things FifPro says are non compliant are clearly stated in the statutes (they are #13 and #16 I believe) to be subject to national law and collective bargaining. They are not requirements, merely guidelines FIFA wants people to aim for.

The players agreed to give these up in the contract so any notion of the current deal being non-compliant is silly. They can say they want MLS to be fully compliant, but there is nothing that forces MLS to do so.

Personally, I wish the two sides would each stop taking such hard-line stances on the outer edge of the issues and begin to discuss some sort of compromise. Doesn't look likely though. It's an old-fashioned dick-swinging contest.

Posted by: beach3 | January 5, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

81 days until United's first 2010 league match!


or first ever lockout.....

Posted by: Curious99 | January 5, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

meet in the middle, open up some dry red wine, smoke a cigar, and call it a day...

Posted by: adamsunited | January 5, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

81 days until United's first 2010 league match!


or first ever lockout.....

Posted by: Curious99 | January 5, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

MLS will likely get pressure from the USSF to avoid a work stoppage. With the world cup happening this year and so many USMNT players in MLS, those players will need to be on the field to be in form for South Africa. I can't imagine a scenario where guys like Holden, Bornstein, Ching, Clark, etc. aren't playing prior to June.

Also, with more attention on soccer this year, MLS would look foolish not to be playing. And I think the average fan would side with the players who certainly get the short end of the stick in the current deal.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | January 5, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

FIFAPro makes some good points.

Posted by: bzygo | January 5, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, Goff's next post -- the video of Dempsey's "wonder-goal" -- isn't coming up.

Here's a link to the awesome highlights:

http://videos.sapo.pt/TasUKKCqDBGKPB1GCR6R

Posted by: fischy | January 5, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Well -- that was interesting -- my last post went through 6 hours later.....

@dimes -- Are you kidding? The former high school soccer coaches at USSF are going to put pressure on the multi-millionaires that own MLS teams?

Posted by: fischy | January 5, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

The single entity argument is not a winner for the MLSPU, but the restrictions on player movement as well as teams retaining rights to them when they are out of contract is. Also, the player draft and how teams who held rights to player (see Pat Noonan) need compensation before players return to League from Europe for another team is another point of contention.

And since FIFA plays by its own rules, it's not going to do anything to jeopardize the still untapped U.S. market by blowing up the league over this.

But if the US players want leverage, go sign in the USL. You can have all the freedom of movement there you want.

Posted by: IamAM | January 6, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The single entity argument is not a winner for the MLSPU, but the restrictions on player movement as well as teams retaining rights to them when they are out of contract is. Also, the player draft and how teams who held rights to player (see Pat Noonan) need compensation before players return to League from Europe for another team is another point of contention.

And since FIFA plays by its own rules, it's not going to do anything to jeopardize the still untapped U.S. market by blowing up the league over this.

But if the US players want leverage, go sign in the USL. You can have all the freedom of movement there you want.

Posted by: IamAM | January 6, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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