MLS, union have 20 days to reach agreement on CBA

October 23, 2017.  MLS Commissioner Don Garber and   Atlanta United Owner Arthur Blank, talks after the press conference where Atlanta was selected to host the 2018 MLS All Star game at the Mercedes-Benz stadium on Monday 23, 2017.
October 23, 2017. MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Atlanta United Owner Arthur Blank, talks after the press conference where Atlanta was selected to host the 2018 MLS All Star game at the Mercedes-Benz stadium on Monday 23, 2017.

Credit: MIguel Martinez

Credit: MIguel Martinez

MLS and the Major League Soccer Players Association have 20 days to reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, league commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday.

There is a deadline to create a new CBA because the league enacted the force-majeure clause in the less-than-one-year-old CBA on Dec. 29, citing a provision of it being reasonably foreseeable that there will material limitations on fans attending games in 2021. The league expects that COVID-19 will limit attendance for most if not all of this coming season. Enacting the clause triggered a 30-day window to complete negotiations.

The league sent a proposal to the MLSPA on Jan. 4. MLS asked for the existing CBA to be extended by two years through the 2027 season in exchange for the players’ salaries not being reduced in 2021. The league has yet to hear from the MLSPA, which Garber didn’t seem bothered by.

“We have to solve this together,” he said.

Garber said he believes the league’s proposal is fair because it puts the financial burden on the owners. Garber estimated that last year the league and its owners lost almost $1 billion in revenue because of attendance restrictions and credits that were given back to the league’s spectrum of partners and ticket-holders. Revenue losses this year and perhaps next year are expected to also be sizeable, Garber said.

Atlanta United is expected to start training camp Jan. 25, which would be within that 30-day window. Because there is an existing CBA, Garber said he expects the players to report on time. Garber said there has been no talk of locking out players if a deal hasn’t been reached by the end of the window. That was a threat made by Garber in June last year during a COVID-forced hiatus to try to get the players to ratify the CBA that was agreed to earlier in the year, but with new provisions including salary cuts and a force-majeure clause. The tactic didn’t please the players.

Enacting the force-majeure clause is something that didn’t please the MLSPA and perhaps why the league has to year from the group.

The MLSPA issued this statement Dec. 29: “After a 2020 season of extreme sacrifice, immeasurable risk to personal health, and a remarkable league-wide effort to successfully return to play, this tone-deaf action by the league discredits the previous sacrifices made by players and the enormous challenges they overcame in 2020.”

If a new CBA can be agreed to, Garber said the league hopes to start its season in mid-March with the goal of playing a traditional 34-game schedule, as well as the Champions League, Leagues Cup, All-Star Game and Campeones Cup. Much of that will be dependent upon COVID-19 and restrictions enacted by local governments.

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