Well one thing is certain as the union reps from each team head to Washington to meet with the mediator and MLS officials, the rhetoric is rising on both ends.
So after months of being beat up by random player comments to the media and online, the owners recently started talking, and I have to say that AEG's Tim Leiweke makes perhaps the most solid point about how there simply would not be a league today if AEG haden't pumped up to 300 million into the league over the last decade. He is exactly right, if not for AEG and the Hunt's there would be no MLS, both have taken huge financial risks over the life of the league and seen very little in the way of profits, let alone paying back that huge investment.
Yesterday saw some new voices from the owners side join the conversation, and we know that Dave Checketts is never one to shy away from controversy. Here are his comments from sportsbusinessdaily.com:
SCP Worldwide Chair Dave Checketts said a MLS player strike would be "devastating" to the league but he believes MLS owners and players will find a way to make a deal to avoid a work stoppage. Speaking on a panel at the IMG World Congress of Sports, Checketts said, "I'm hoping in the next few days cooler heads prevail and we find a way through this. I hope [players] understand the implications of a strike. It's not that they go out and come right back after missing one game. It's much more complicated than that. I've spoken to Commissioner Garber last night. I think we will find a way to make a deal. I think we will find a way to make a deal soon. But if there is a strike, I've been through it in the NHL and the NBA. To our owners, this will not be their first rodeo." Players have threatened to strike next Tuesday if the MLS Players Union fails to agree to terms with MLS on a new CBA. Free agency remains the primary sticking point between players and the league, Checketts said. He added, "The league is built as a single entity and that single entity has allowed us to keep labor costs somewhat in check and even with those labor costs in check. This is not a money-making operation yet, so it is going to require more years of investing. We're still pioneers. We're not settling. It's not time for any sort of work stoppage."
His comments were made at the IMG World Congress of Sports, and MLS is not the only league dealing with CBA issues as both the NBA and NFL are facing similar situations. Labor was one of the leading topics at the meetings and the article makes for some interesting reading.
More after the jump:
Of course Dave wasn't the only owner to be quoted yesterday, perhaps no owner has a better perspective on this than those of San Jose's Lew Wolff. Consider that San Jose saw Landon Donovan basically demand to leave the team to play in LA when he came back from a failed attempt at playing in Europe, then the team packed it's bags and headed to Houston. Now they get a new ownership group, come back into the league and just this week get support from their local government to finally build a real soccer stadium. San Jose has some dedicated fans but has never been one of the top attendance teams in the league, and since rejoining MLS have struggled on the pitch as well.
Lew's comments to Steve Goff on Soccer Insider start with:
A strike will be a set back to the dedicated efforts of our players, coaches, management and ownership in seeking to maintain a MLS team in the Bay Area. Without labor being a cooperative partner, our plans for a new venue and expansion of our youth program will be set back for a period that certainly does not benefit the current or future players.
I feel very close to the players and I am at a loss as to how to respond when I am told that the player's union suggests that they are being treated unfairly.
and end with:
A strike is up to the players. To assume that a strike will achieve some elements that are not being achieved by the current negotiation is a risk that I am hopeful the players and their representatives will carefully evaluate. I know some concessions have been made, but if the adjustments are not enough for the players, a strike will not, in my estimation, be the best way to achieve whatever is desired.
We get a quick update on the doom and gloom prospects from ESPN's Andrew Hush who quotes AEG's Leiweke as saying:
"We will wait as long as it takes. We will never, ever agree to change the [single-entity] system."
So yes, even though the union says the labor stalemate isn't about money, it ultimately is about money and whether MLS is trying to give players a smaller slice of a bigger pie.
Both sides have a point. MLS has seen owners lose millions for more than a decade so you can't blame them for wanting to reap the reward of that dedicated investment, but it has also been players who have sacrificed and helped the league get to this point, which makes it understandable why they want to see the benefits of that sacrifice.
and follows up with this:
What we do know is that a strike would cripple the league. It would cost owners serious money and would hurt the credibility MLS has worked to restore in the eight years since it contracted two teams and appeared to be on shaky ground.
It would shake the faith of established fans (if the mere threat of a strike hasn't already) and would cause the league to lose out on a golden opportunity to build some momentum heading into a World Cup summer.
If you doubt the severity of the situation, consider that we have just now with a week to go before the scheduled start of the season heard from Peter Wilt, if you don't know who he is just google his name. He offers up his solution for Pitch Invasion, it is well worth a read. He details his plan and I will take a more detailed look at it and where I think he is on target and some areas that I think he misses the mark later today.
Of course you couldn't expect the owners to have a right to free speech as they are clearly the devil, or so our friend from Columbus would have you think, but his statement that "owners are pissing themselves" shows a lot of class. Again it is funny how the extremes run, well the Nordecke Luchador offers his very pro union view points both in print and in an interview with World Soccer Daily (you know the show that got pulled for saying some very stupid things).
I don't have time this morning to fully respond to any of the comments from either side but I will be offering up a few thoughts later today. I really hope that setting the players themselves down with the mediator will help, but only time will tell.
OFF MY SOAPBOX