Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday that the MLS Players Association hasn’t responded yet to the league’s proposed changes to the collective bargaining agreement.
Garber said that while he understands players need an opportunity to adequately review the league’s proposal, time is also becoming a major factor as the sides have less than three weeks to come to an agreement on a revised CBA.
“I’m not putting any blame whatsoever. I want to be very clear on that, that they have not done anything wrong here. But we have a sense of urgency that we’ve got to get together and we’ve got to solve this together,” Garber said. “Frankly I think we did solve it together last spring, and we’ve been able to work through difficult CBA negotiations since the first one that we had 15 years ago.”
The league invoked its force majeure clause in late December that obligates MLS and the MLSPA to negotiate modifications to the existing CBA in good faith for 30 days, with a deadline in late January.
The league presented revisions to the CBA last week that propose players receive their full salaries after they agreed to a 5% pay reduction as part of a renegotiated CBA last June. As part of the new proposal, MLS wants the current CBA extended through 2027.
If an agreement on the modifications cannot be reached, the CBA from June could be terminated. The league invoked the clause following a season during which it says it suffered nearly $1 billion in losses due to the pandemic as it played in mostly empty stadiums and with increased costs for testing and charter flights.
Players had expressed worry late last season that the league would try to change the CBA and stressed that the idea of another negotiation would not sit well with the union.
“The proposal was very simple and the reason it’s so simple, and in our view so fair and reasonable, is because we know how difficult CBA negotiations are,” Garber said. “They’re difficult for ownership, they’re distracting for the league office, they’re difficult for the players who want to get on with doing what they do and what they do so well, which is to get on the field and practice and then ultimately play in games.”
The league values the proposed two-year extension through 2027 at being worth between $100 million and $115 million, but while players may receive full salaries in the short-term, the long-term potential of salary growth may be handcuffed by extending the CBA.
The league is also moving ahead with planning for the upcoming season. Garber said mid-March remains the target start date with the hope of playing a full 34-game schedule amid a busy calendar that includes the CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.
There are also unresolved issues about the league’s three Canadian teams and whether they will be allowed to play in their home markets or have to move operations to the U.S., as they did for a significant portion of last season.
The league is also now taking the lead on the sale of Real Salt Lake. The league announced last summer that Dell Loy Hansen would be selling the team after reports surfaced he made racist comments.
Garber said the league took over the sale process this week, but the team continues to operate as usual.
“We are continuing to engage with possible buyers, we have an investment bank that’s been working with us and we’re hopeful that we’ll get the team sold, sometime in 2021,” Garber said.
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