The Sweeper: Lockout Looms for MLS? Yes, No, Maybe So.


Big Story
We’ve rather evaded the ongoing labour talks between MLS and the players’ union, mainly because we don’t have any insider info or original insight to offer on the dispute. But we’re just days away from a lockout, so we are at least keeping a close eye on the proceedings. Two different news reports today paint different pictures of how close we are to the first work disruption in MLS history.

At Soccer America, Ridge Mahoney cautiously says that the latest news “might be interpreted as encouraging.” Mahoney tells us the two sides are at least sitting at the table together for lengthy periods of time.

Representatives of the two sides met for eight hours yesterday at league headquarters, and discussions are scheduled to resume Wednesday.

On hand for MLS were Commissioner Don Garber, President Mark Abbott, Executive Vice President Todd Durbin, and others, including members of the league’s legal firm, Proskauer & Rose. Jon Newman, General Counsel to the MLSPU, was among those on the players’ side of the table.

Progress, or lack of same, has been hard to track, yet eight hours is a long time for two opposing sides, regardless of the issues, to tolerate each other.

In the San Diego Tribune, Mark Zeigler is rather less optimistic:

Neither side is talking much, respecting to a mutual media gag order, but snippets of sentiment have leaked out over the past few months as talks have grown more contentious. It’s not looking good. Several players and agents privately say they consider a Feb. 1 lockout inevitable.

On the table are issues such as free agency, the salary cap, roster size, minimum pay, guaranteed contracts, moving expenses, per diem, 401(k)s. The core issue, though, might be something far more fundamental: the true financial viability of the league.

So leave it to Freddie Ljungberg to proclaim on his blog yesterday that “Based on the latest news I’ve heard from both sides,  there wont be a lock out or strike on Feb 1.” True or not, perhaps more interesting were his comments about just how surprising all this was to Freddie:

Its been a difficult time. The potential strike that is happening in US soccer has made every player worry about their career’s and where they will be playing next season…. It’s been a big surprise how long the negotiations have been going on and no agreement has been reached.

All that the players are asking for is FIFA RIGHTS!! Every football player in the world that I know of plays under those rules, big or small leagues. So when I thought an agreement would be signed in a second…How wrong was I…..

How wrong indeed, Freddie.

Worldwide News

  • On Portland’s stadium redevelopment for MLS, Fake Sigi points to a Field of Schemes piece on some less than transparent aspects of the council’s funding for it, concluding “What’s clear is that there’s plenty of opposition to getting this deal done, and while by all accounts the stadium deal will get pushed through, it’s not at all obvious the community is happy with the arrangement. Nothing against Portland and their fans, but MLS expansion in the Pacific Northwest beyond Seattle hasn’t been a shining example of public relations.”
  • European Football Weekends looks at what they call Britain’s #1 ultras group, Celtic’s Green Brigade. One of their leaders describes their non-existent relations with the club: “We don’t have any relationship with Celtic, or at least not a positive one. They are happy to use the chants we start over the tannoy and our tifo pictures on their adverts for ticketing but beyond that there is no relationship to speak of, and we regularly have problems with them in terms of getting access with materials, with aggro from club stewards and officials etc. Recently our members taking the group banner into matches have been pointed out by Celtic stewards to the police who have demanded details and searches, using spurious legislation against us.”
  • One third of World Cup tickets remain unsold; not a surprise, perhaps, but a real shame.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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