Galaxy’s Donovan Pops off as MLS Lockout Looms

Looks like things are getting ever more tense between MLS and its players.

MLS’ “code of silence” is going to work against them if they don’t start being more forthcoming.

Prediction: fans will side with the players, not MLS, and the league is risking its hard-won credibility.

I wonder though, why Landon Donovan, one of the highest-paid players in the league, is the apparent spokesman on this issue. I’m guessing players figure LD is pretty much untouchable.

Here’s the latest:

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer could be headed for a work stoppage next month.

The sport’s international union says management is threatening to lock out MLS players after the league’s five-year labor contract expires Jan. 31.

“It is difficult to understand why the owners would take this course, when all we are asking for are the same rights enjoyed by other players around the world, not just in the biggest leagues, but in leagues of all sizes,” Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan said in a statement released by FIFPro, which represents more than 50,000 players, including members of the MLS Players Union.

MLS president Mark Abbott disputed much of what FIFPro said.

“Any discussion about a lockout, players’ strike or other work stoppage is premature and frankly counterproductive to our ongoing mutual commitment to reach an agreement,” he said.

FIFPro claims MLS’s single-entity structure, in which all players sign with the league rather than individual teams, violates regulations of FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

FIFPro said almost 80 percent of MLS players don’t have guaranteed contracts, that contracts give the league multiple one-year options, that players can be transferred without their consent and that out-of-contract players lack freedom of movement.

“Despite months of negotiations the two sides have made little progress on a new deal,” FIFPro said. “The league is now threatening to lock the players out on Feb. 1 if the players don’t agree to a continuation of the status quo.”

Before forming a union, MLS players filed a federal antitrust suit against the league. A jury ruled against the players in 2000.

Abbott said the league complied with FIFA’s regulations and that “it has been proven in
federal court that the MLS business structure is legal and does not operate as a cartel.”

“During the last 50 years, there have been multiple failed efforts to launch professional
soccer in the United States and Canada,” Abbott said. “In order to avoid this fate, the MLS owners created a structure that has provided stability and growth during the last 15
years.”

Income for MLS players averaged $147,945 at the start of last season, according to the MLS union, but the median — the point at which an equal amount make above and below — was $88,000 for 323 players listed.

“What we are looking for are the same basic rights that players enjoy in other leagues around the world,” Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller said in a statement issued by FIFPro. “We have made great strides in developing the game in the United States. But we can’t truly compete internationally, either for players or fans, with a system that is so radically different than other leagues around the world.”

MLS Players Union executive director Bob Foose declined comment, spokesman Neil Hare said.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • Studs Up

    This is a tough one to sort out. Without much transparency, it’s very difficult to gauge the financial stability of this league. My guess is that it’s precarious at best. The players deserve and will get some compensation but I can see the rosters getting younger and careers getting shorter.

  • Ben

    Not good to have 2 sides (so far appart).
    Still hoping for a positive solution for everyone for the benefit of Soccer in the US.

    I’m much closer to MLS/USSF/FIFA’s side than the the MLS PU/FIFPro’s simply because the later are talking a lot of BS.

    Most fans would love a higher salary cap and more money for the players along with some MLS & NASL/USL partnership.

    But for every LA/Seattle/Philly/Toronto there is a Dallas, Kansas etc.

    Let’s integrate Vancouver, Portland, likely Montreal first, try to win the World Cup 2018/22 bid, use the 2010 World Cup surge.

  • Studs Up

    Ben brings up a valid point about support parity throughout the league. Is that the league problem or players problem?

    I say it’s supporter’s problem. Until we fill the stadiums and get passionate about our sport these problems will not get resolved. I’m 100% pro union but in tough economic times, specially in a tenious business, baby steps are the only recourse.

    Transparency, shared vision and mutual trust are the keys. MLS, the players union and the soccer fans are still pioneers and sacrifices must be made all around for the good of the game.

  • DUDEINHO

    I really dont get why MLS is so scared of free agency. if your contract is up you should be able to resign with the league at what ever mls club wants your services(if they can afford it). We still have a salary cap so its not like one team in MLS will be buying up all these free agents. Another foolish rule that doesn’t make sense is the rule where if a player leaves an MLS team and comes back years later that same team gets the rights to said player? He should be free to sign with anyone at that point. the Salary cap is what still allows for parity if thats what MLS is so concerned with. All these strange rules is why foreign coaches have so much trouble with the league, and it really handicaps us when competing at internationally.