Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why We All Can't Get Along

Talks for a new Collective Barging Agreement are currently on going between the MLS owners and the MLS Players Union.  The current CBA will expire in January 31, 2010 and some concern has recently been put on these talks, as the MLSPU has hinted at a strike could be possible.     

Two of the hot topics in the on-going negotiations are guaranteed contracts and club option clauses.  Contracts in MLS are signed and paid by the league (minus parts of the DP contracts), and they are set up under the current CBA and league rules.     

Almost all of the player contracts in MLS are not guaranteed contracts.  This is an obvious problem for the players of the league.  For instance if a MLS player gets hurt for a long period of time, the club can cancel his contract and find another healthy player to take his spot on the roster.  The original player is now injured and unemployed.  MLS owners have the right to cancel player contracts, but the players themselves cannot cancel their own contract.  This is definitely hypocritical when looked at from the view of the Players Union.  The MLS owners are in a very tough position as well, they are on the hook if the league is profitable or not profitable.  This clause helps them keep the roster size of the teams lower and to not have to continue paying out bad contracts that they could have signed in the past.  Financial Stability is the most important factor in the growth of MLS right now.  It is not good for the current players' pockets, but it is attracting good ownership groups for the league and keeping some of the older ownership groups of the league from losing too much money.      

Club option clauses are another tough puzzle for the young soccer league as well.  In MLS when a player's contract expires, their MLS rights are still owned by the team that their contract expired with. This eliminates free agency within MLS and therefore stops a bidding war for an MLS player’s services without its original club getting something in return.  A perfect example is Matt Pickens, who left the Chicago Fire in 2008 to join Queens Park Rangers of the English Championship.  When his contract was not extended or renewed, he became a free agent everywhere expect MLS.  Colorado was interested in Matt Pickens and to offer something to the Fire in return for his rights.  In return the Fire was able to swap second round picks and gain an allocation.      

This rule of club option clauses also can drive MLS players to leave the league and go elsewhere for more money.  Yuri Movsisyan signed a pre-contract with the Danish club Randers, before his contract expired in MLS.  If he wanted to stay in MLS he would have had to renegotiate with the league and RSL only for a new contract.  So to create demand for his services he, like many other former MLS players, had to look to Europe to receive the raise that they thought was sufficient.  This is another way for the league to stay financial stable and keep some parody in the league, by not allowing the teams to be competing against each other for player services without something in return.     

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Do you side with the owners or the players union?

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