MLS and its Players Union are meeting with a federal mediator to avert a labor standoff. League owners, apparently, aren’t in the mood for concessions. According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, the league offered a limited form of free agency, about as limited as one could come up with.
Few players would qualify under that scenario. The few that did would not need the leverage. Landon Donovan, had he not retired, would have qualified for free agency for the first time this year, if MLS did not factor in loan moves to Everton.
Whatever paltry free agency offer is on the table now may be a “take it now or leave it” offer.
Suggestion by source was that if players strike, then we might not see owners be open to free agency for a long time.
— Jorge Arangure (@jorgearangure) March 3, 2015
MLS still operates as a single-entity employer. Players sign a contract with the league, not the team they play for. This prevents a free market for labor. A single-entity, if that description is accepted, can’t collude with itself and be subject to anti-trust action.
Players will claim it’s not about the money. But, it should be. Owners will point to average salaries increasing from $103,000 in 2007 to $186,000 to 2014. Much of that is a few players such as Jozy Altidore making $6 million per year. The more indicative median salary over the period rose from $70,000 to $80,000, essentially staying level with inflation. 2007 is the year David Beckham joined MLS. The league has grown dramatically since. Looking at the math, the average MLS player has seen none of it.
Hardline negotiating from the owners may win the battle. MLS players aren’t millionaires who can weather a sustained work stoppage. Several league owners are veterans from labor fights in other sports. But, the owners’ tactics may alienate the league’s core fan base, who know who to blame. They surely won’t help the league’s ongoing effort to gain any traction whatsoever with mainstream sports fans.