Supporters tell MLS to let the players play

March 11, 2018 Atlanta: A Atlanta United fan toasts the team as they take on the D.C. United during their home opener in a MLS soccer game on Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Atlanta.    Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
March 11, 2018 Atlanta: A Atlanta United fan toasts the team as they take on the D.C. United during their home opener in a MLS soccer game on Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

ISC voices support MLSPA in negotiations for a new CBA

Groups of MLS supporters have put their support behind the league’s players in its ongoing negotiations with the MLS and its owners for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Independent Supporters Council, an organization composed of supporters groups of clubs in the U.S. and Canada that advocates for fair treatment of supporters, issued this statement on Monday:

“To the greater North American soccer community:

“Only a year after we voiced similar concerns over the treatment of MLS players, and despite the sacrifices they made to play the 2020 season, we are once again compelled to unite in support of our players. The Independent Supporters Council and our members have been following with concern the negotiations that have resulted in MLS owners threatening to lock players out after Thursday, February 4th. With the deadline quickly approaching, it is our duty to make our collective voice heard.

“Our players have already made extreme sacrifices over the past year. They were forced away from their families for months, followed an extreme travel schedule during the regular season in adhering to COVID-19 protocols, and made monetary concessions that totaled over $150 million. Now, the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) has made a further proposal extending the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) into the 2026 season, along with other non-economic changes, in acknowledgment of the unprecedented business losses suffered by the MLS owners during the pandemic. We recognize and do not take for granted that everyone involved has made sacrifices. The burden has fallen on not only players, but coaches, staff, and officials. However, MLS owners are now demanding that MLS players bear large pandemic-related losses back-loaded into the end of the CBA. This is despite the fact that, whether today or in the future, MLS owners are far better equipped to absorb these losses without direct impact on their livelihood and families, as compared to MLS players. And, to achieve this shifting of the primary burden, MLS owners now threaten MLS players with removal of their livelihood during an already globally uncertain time.

“Throughout the continuing negotiations and despite the concessions they have already made, the players have made themselves clear; they want to play. They want to play, not just because of their love for the game, but for the cities they represent when they walk on the field. They want to play for the supporters in the stands and at home. They want to play to continue bringing our communities together. Our players understand how much the beautiful game can bring a community together, even when we can't all physically be together. So, as befits the solidarity at the core of the best communities, we, their supporters, unite to support our players during this time. Their sacrifices on and off the field during this trying time continue to elevate our clubs beyond solely the concerns of a balance sheet and open possibilities beyond what can narrowly be won or lost at a negotiating table. We see what our players have done. We support them. Major League Soccer, the message from the supporters is simple.

“Let them play."

MLS and MLSPA, which represents the players, have extended a deadline to complete negotiations by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 4. If an agreement isn’t reached, the league has threatened to lock out the players. It would be the first work stoppage in MLS history and would come slightly less that three weeks before training camps are scheduled to open on Feb. 22.

Within the ISC are groups that support Atlanta United including All Stripes, The Faction, Footie Mob and Terminus Legion.

Those supporters issued their own statement on Monday:

We, the Supporter Groups of Atlanta United, support the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) in their continuing negotiations with MLS of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

As we entered the 2020 season there was no way to predict what the season would present and the sacrifices to be made by players, fans, and teams alike. Now we are faced with another uncertain season with the continued negotiations between MLS and the MLSPA. As supporters of the game, and our teams, we ask as a collective group that MLS consider the hardships that lack of play and continued uncertainty of the season will have on all involved in making soccer in the North Americas possible and work diligently to return the players to the pitch in safe & equitable situations. The communities involved are affected through financial and social aspects and will continue to suffer when the season is affected. 2021 was intended to be a brighter season than 2020 but as of now we are left uncertain of its future.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, once said, “Our future is going to have us looking to these special players as the foundations for the sport, and we need to find ways to provide salaries that are competitive with other parts of the world. More important than that, we need them to believe in the league and their role in building the sport." We have been asked by our commissioner to acknowledge the importance of our players in growing the sport. He has also tasked us with promoting recognition of their role in bringing MLS to the same level of respect as other international leagues. We now ask the same of him and the other members of the MLS board to collaborate with the MLSPA to find fair results for the players in their request to return to play.

A stoppage in play, or further delay in season, will only continue to tarnish the strides that have been accomplished so again we ask to let the players return to the pitch with safe provisions. The upcoming season has the potential to assist in bringing stability to wavering markets and normalcy to fans & supporters. MLS has a following old enough to remember its inception and owes it to these persons to bring forth all necessary dialogue to keep soccer on the pitch. We are looking to MLS to take into consideration its opportunity to solidify the league as one of the best to play for and support in the world.

#LetThemPlay2021

Atlanta United SGs:

All Stripes The Faction Footie Mob La 12 de Atlanta Terminus Legion