UPDATE: A potential breakthrough?
While things were very intense over the last few days, there has been a major breakthrough between the @MLSPA and @MLS league office. “Cautiously optimistic” as 1 more detail is being discussed and pending the new agreement/CBA being ratified, a lockout should be avoided.— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) June 2, 2020
Last week, it was looking like the pieces were coming together for the MLS Orlando tournament. The players had some concerns about health, safety and the length of time they’d be in quarantine, but if those were addressed, it was likely a go.
Now, it seems like we might be on the verge of a lockout.
Reports by ESPN and The Athletic indicate there’s a major sticking point—the owners’ demand that there be a “force majeure” clause in the contract, that would allow either side to blow up the new collective bargaining agreement in the event of a catastrophic event, like, say, a pandemic.
The players were even reportedly on board with that, until the owners wanted to insert language that said the owners could invoke the force majeure clause if five teams suffer an attendance drop of 25 percent or more over the previous year. To put it mildly, MLS attendance figures aren’t an exact science. So, it would be pretty easy for owners to show figures that triggered the clause. That’s obviously concerning to the players, who have already reportedly agreed to taking some level of a pay cut.
There’s a tiny bit of hope here, though. Herculez Gomez reports the owners have pushed back their deadline for players to accept a deal to Wednesday 11 am CT, and the owners are revising their proposal, hopefully to make it more palatable to the players.
Since MLS relies on a higher percentage of game day revenue than other North American sports leagues, locking the players out may actually help the owners save some money in 2020. It’s a terrible look, however, and the long term damage could seriously damage the league.
If MLS is serious about building this into one of the top leagues in the world, they’ll get this done without squeezing the players any more. The league is finally starting to beat out other leagues for top talent, and a lockout could scare away future stars who are looking to play here.
As for the fans—this isn’t baseball or the NFL. There are plenty of other soccer leagues to watch. If MLS goes away, fans will shift their attention elsewhere. Unlike most summers, the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A will all be in action. On top of that, the NWSL and its players got a deal done for a very similar COVID-19 quarantine tournament in Utah, with the sides praising each other when negotiations were complete.
So, take a cue from the NWSL. Get a deal done that makes the players feel like they’re important partners in building the league, not an unnecessary burden.