CBA Negotiations / MLS

Landon Donovan, Kasey Keller criticize handling of CBA Negotiations by MLS

In a statement released Tuesday by the international players organization FIFPro, Landon Donovan and Kasey Keller have criticized the MLS for how it is handling negotiations with the Players Union for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The MLS has threatened to lock players out if a deal is not reached by February 1st.

A lock out would effectively shut down the league as preparations for the 2010 World Cup begin to gather steam.

The Players Union argues that, for the MLS, a “deal” means a continuation of the status quo.

Said Keller, who has been outspoken on this issue on his blog, “What we are looking for are the same basic rights that players enjoy in other leagues around the world . . . 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.”

Donovan added, “the league shutting down MLS in February would do real damage to the development of the game in the United States and to our efforts to prepare for South Africa. 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.”

The statement describes current MLS policy as violating FIFA regulations on several counts:

  • Because nearly 80% of the players in MLS do not have guaranteed contracts, they’re employment is routinely terminated by the league.
  • The league operates as a cartel because players contracts are with the league rather than a club.
  • Most player contracts contain multiple one-year options that can only be exercised by the league.
  • Almost any player in the league can be transferred within the league without his consent, including international transfers between US and Canadian MLS teams.
  • Because clubs retain control over players rights even if a player’s contract is terminated during its term, players have no freedom of movement. Thus, a player can only sign with another club with the approval of that player’s former club.

The MLS does not believe that it violates FIFA statutes. League president Mark Abbott told ESPNsoccernet in December that MLS regularly reviews its policies to “ensure it is compliant with the cumbersome FIFA regulations.” According to Abbott, the league “has always been compliant with FIFA.”

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  1. MLS is going have to start budging on at least a few of these points. They have to see that a lockout at this stage of the league’s development would be a complete disaster. You’d HOPE they would see it.

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