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Keller & Donovan Speak out on the CBA

FIFPro 300x187 Keller & Donovan Speak out on the CBA

The majority of North America is suffering from a cold snap, but the rhetoric around US Soccer is getting hotter everyday. Whether it is the ongoing NASL/USL dispute (which is being mediated today) or the MLS CBA, the temperature keeps rising.

Today FIFPro, which represents football players around the globe released a statement by US National Team legend and current Sounders GK Kasey Keller on the current situation.

Keller stated:

“‘What we are looking for are the same basic rights that players enjoy in other leagues around the world’, said Kasey Keller, longtime U.S. international and veteran of the top leagues in England, Germany and Spain. 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.”

Landon 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.’

Additionally FIFAPro reasserted that MLS continues to be in violation of numerous FIFA statutes. FIFPro has a good relationship with both Sepp Blatter and Michael Platini, who have both come down often on the side of players in disputes with management.

MLS has responded via Mark Abbott with the following statement:

“The statement regarding MLS issued by the MLS players today contains many inaccuracies including the false assertion that MLS is not compliant with the FIFA regulations. MLS is in fact operating in compliance and the players are simply wrong on this point. Also, contrary to the Union’s claims, it has been proven in federal court that the MLS business structure is legal and does not operate as a cartel. Moreover, 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 between management and the players. During the last 50 years, there have been multiple failed efforts to launch professional soccer in the United States and Canada. In order to avoid this fate, the MLS owners created a structure that has provided stability and growth during the last 15 years while creating opportunity for the sport. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the players regarding a new CBA.”

This statement is from my vantage point, quite disturbing. Despite the constant claims that the league has progressed beyond its initial troubles, the owners continue to cite the “failure” of the NASL as justification to keep a structure designed for initial survival, not long term success in place. (Keep in mind the NASL in 1980 had 10 times the TV viewers on national platforms than MLS did in 2008)

Additionally, the league gives no evidence as to how it is in compliance with the FIFA regulations which the players union has listed. Furthermore, it is not an issue of US court compliance, but compliance with the established regulations and laws of the game that FIFPro and the MLSPU have made a stand on. We still have no clear indication from MLS as to how exactly they comply with FIFA mandates beyond simple assurance from the ownership group that they are.

Until MLS refutes point by point the assertions of the players union, all which appear to be grounded factually, we must assume MLS is throwing up a smokescreen against its players.

It is the American player who has built MLS and brought this sport to the masses nationally. Yet, MLS maintains a structure which pays players attracted from second division sides in Argentina, England and France more money than successful five year, league veterans. We have a league structure that paid Pablo Vitti close to $400k in 2009 while compensating Stuart Holden, a star of the US National Team setup $35k.

I was hopeful the owners would negotiate in good faith on these matters, and that is why I have not blogged on the issue in sometime, on this site or the other websites, I contribute to. However, it is obvious MLS is playing hardball and is risking all the gains the league has made over what relatively speaking are pennies.

This entry was posted in Kasey Keller, Landon Donovan, Leagues: Major League Soccer, MLS CBA. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

38 Responses to Keller & Donovan Speak out on the CBA

  1. Mike says:

    I can’t beleive this. The players should be treated better. I can’t beleive the amount of money they paying Stu Holden! 35k?

    Now I see why many players decide to go overseas even when they have no assurance of playing time.

    MLS needs to get with the program.

  2. Nick says:

    Okay, a couple of points. FIFA is not pushing MLS to give up the league structure. At the meeting with the US World Cup Bid Committee, FIFA is more concerned about getting the US to adopt the international calendar. US courts have ruled that the structure is legal. I can’t imagine the MLS giving up its unique structure which keeps salary costs under control.

    Sure, the superstars from NASL’s glory days got a lot more fan viewership. But the model was unsustainable based on the huge sums that they had to pay those players. We could increase MLS viewership by 10x by paying for today’s equivalent of Pele, Beckenbauer, etc…but MLS would go insolvent just like the NASL did.

  3. CVO says:

    “Additionally, the league gives no evidence as to how it is in compliance with the FIFA regulations which the players union has listed.”

    ???

    MLS – Not actually in violation of FIFA Regulations

    http://www.fakesigi.com/2010/01/mls-not-actually-in-violation-of-fifa.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+fakesigi%2FTrik+%28The+Fake+Sigi+Schmid+Blog%29

  4. Brett says:

    While I understand the League’s position of wanting to maintain a sustainable league, I also completely understand why the players are not happy with the status quo.

    I was looking at the most recent data released by the MLS player’s union and it’s really amazing how little the so called “fully professional” athletes make.

    The average salary is $133,706.32; take out Beckham’s $6,500,000.04 (I think the extra 4 cents is funny) and the average drops to $117,255.94, take out the top 5 salaries and the league average is $100,172.32.

    That may not seem too bad, but of the 388 players 233 (60%) make less that $100k, 143 (37%) earn less than 50k, and 42 (11%) make less that 25k!

    Only 4 players earn more than $1M and 8 make more than $500k.

    ref: http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/september_15_2009_salary_information__alphabetical.pdf

    • Brett says:

      By the way, the lowest salary was $15,300.

    • Nick says:

      Even under the current salaries, MOST TEAMS ARE NOT MAKING A PROFIT. I know that the salaries seem low for professional athletes, but MLS does not draw as much revenue as other sports. If it makes you feel better, a first year minor league baseball player only makes $13,200/yr.

      • Lars says:

        That’s not true. Most are making a profit. Most are not making an “accounting” profit. Which is completely different. An accounting profit is earned by legally “cooking” the books. Most pro sports teams do not earn accounting profits, yet most are profitable in economic terms. Economic and accounting profits are totally different things.

        • Gazza says:

          Plus the increase in the value of some of the franchises. MLSE paid $10m for TFC, now it is worth over $50m easy.

        • Charles says:

          Hey Lars, we agree.
          Most sports teams do not make a profit, for instance the Mariners “lost” $1 million a year for 10 years in the 80s. The value of the team went from about $10 million to $110 million.
          go figure.

  5. Yankeedoodle says:

    personally i want what is best for the league to not end up like the old nasl. but then again in order for out league to compete and grow it needs to adapt into the model other league is using. not only europes but others like japan and s.america. our best players are leaving because standards here are bad and foeign talent certaintly dont want to come because not only standards but the fact that the good people are leaving to play in europe gives them no reason to come. the league were it got to now was built on the backs of the average american player getting paid 2nd division salary while old has-beens or unknown foreigners get paid triple the ammount. i now realize i want what is best for the league not so that it fails, but so it can compete and shelter our good players and give them the benefits they deserve. if mls dont do sumtin quick, the players will surely take matters into their own hands and either leave or just not comply and i support that.

  6. Lucky Luciano says:

    “MOST TEAMS ARE NOT MAKING A PROFIT. ”

    That actually goes to the heart of a pretty fundamental issue.

    Because almost all of the big teams in world soccer are – wait for it – NOT MAKING A PROFIT.

    That’s soccer – rich men throw money at soccer players in the rest of the world. Chelsea, Milan, Real Madrid – they don’t make profits.

    In the U.S they try to make money. Its a novel idea in soccer terms.

    Is it going to work? Is the U.S going to be the only country in the world where soccer clubs make a profit?

    Maybe – the only problem is the players know they can make a lot more money elsewhere – in the ‘non-profit sector’ called Europe.

    There are no easy answers to this.

  7. Trey says:

    kartik has written so much stupid stuff for so long, but the last few weeks he has been on a roll. i agree on the nasl stuff u wrote at the other site and this article is brilliant.

    goodness, after months and years of attacking kartik on message boards i am being converted to his way of thinking. heaven help me!

  8. soundersfcfanboy says:

    I’d quit my job and play soccer for a living for HALF of what the league average minus the top 5 paid players in the league is. That’s $50K, right? Plus whatever else I can make on the side for job not to mention what the extra few thousand players make playing in the playoffs, tournaments, etc.

    • Oscar says:

      Consider your competing markets though. Why stay here when you can jump ship to a league that’s offering you way more money?

      As a Sounders fan, I’ve got to side with the players, and the general reworking of the league structure. Sounders broke 30 thousand seats every game, but how will that transfer into the team’s benefit? From everything I’ve read, we can’t give our guys raises, we can’t snipe new players…heck, we can’t even sell Montero jerseys to finance the team’s loftier goals. Sounders til I die, just let us go Yankee a bit at the market!

      • Charles says:

        Huge Sounders fan too, but realize this is not the Yankees, competing against the Blue Jays.

        Away from LA, Sounders have WAY more revenue than any other team. With most of the best soccer talent NOT in the MLS, so the inequity would be so much worse, as the Yankees can only sign so many players with the rest of them going to their competition.
        In soccer the rest do NOT go to the competition.
        Look to the EPL if you want an example of a terrible league. Man U, Chelsea, etc sign the best players, the other best players they don’t sign go to Spain, Germany and Italy.

    • reddevilmaniac says:

      If you would quit your job to make 50K for just a few years then more power to you. I don’t know about you but I have to earn till I’m 62 and that is the point. These guys have to think about their short term earning potential in their chosen field and it isn’t unreasonable that they expect to share in some of the bounty garnered by the league in franchise fees (40 to 50 mil), shirt sponsor deals, league endorsement agreements etc. And not every player makes the playoffs or gets to tournaments and with current structure they can’t move, as a free agent to a new team that does.

  9. flatts says:

    I want whatever causes the league to continue to grow and for there not to be a lockout. A lockout would hurt the league so much and hurt the chances of US players being prepared for the World Cup. And I really think that a lockout would look so bad that there’d be a VERY good chance that it could damage, if not totally trash, the US bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

  10. reddevilmaniac says:

    Look people it doesn’t have to be an either or situation. I’m sure that the players understand that there isn’t going to be any European style paydays in MLS for sometime. But you have to agree that as the faces of the league and, therefore the reason the league attracts people sponsors etc, that they every right to some reasonable expectation of being remunerated for there hard work. I don’t think it is unreasonable of them to ask for some kind of free agency rights, which bt the way, every other American worker has. It doesn’t have to wide open free agency it could be some along the structure of the NFL or NBA. After a certain number of years you become a conditional free agent then after tht full free agent. It wouldn’t ruin the leagues salary structure either because it would still be up to the owners to decide whether they pay or not. The players should have the right to expolre greener pastures. It doesn’t make sense to me that the league doesn’t allow the individual owners the right to negotiate the terms of their own players agreements and decide for themselves what they can afford. I mean that is what free enterprise is all about, isn’t it, the current structure is more socialistic than anything else, top down control of product and movement of employees. I find it rather ironic that in socialist Europe their football business model is more free market than the one in the home of free markets. Maybe we should call Garber the Furher of MLS not commissioner since he is demanding total control of the league, the future of the American game and the lives of it’s players. Because that my friends is what his status quo position amounts to, no negotiating, no movement, no wiggle room, just total control, it’s despotic.

  11. Rick1977 says:

    Hear, hear! Great post.

  12. Charles says:

    I am a working man’s guy. I even thought ARod was underpaid a few year back. Still think he WAS.
    But the players did NOT make this league as Kartik stated, a few owners with very deep pockets owned all the teams…THAT MADE THE LEAGUE.
    So go ahead and side with the players, higher salaries will bring better play to our league…..but realize that some took and are taking huge risks here by putting up a lot of money.

    The owners will most likely be rewarded for the risk, but I for one can see them wanting to take a little risk off the table.

  13. Lou says:

    High salaries and one or two teams signing all the big players is what killed the original NASL. EPL now is going through the same thing. Several clubs are close to going out of business and the same two teams win everything.

    MLS is a more stable and solid structure and has created a more competitive environment. When you turn on a Premier League game, you know who will win it. In the case of an upset, it is massive. But in MLS every game is a mystery.

    USSF and MLS are doing a great job. Since the USSF also appears to be able to reign in this rogue group of club owners from USL and force them into a USSF league, costs there will also be controlled and less teams will go out of business.

    The players should stop whining and be thankful for what they have. We used to have no professional options. Now MLS will have 18 teams across the country, and the second division which a week ago was out of business will now give increased options.

    I agree with average salary also. How many 22-27 year olds make 50k right out of college or without a college degree? Have some perspective folks, the MLS players actually have it good. They have a stable league to play in thanks to fiscal discipline of Don Garber’s leadership and are being compensated reasonably as well.

    • reddevilmaniac says:

      “several EPL clubs are on the verge of going out of busines” nice device to try and make your point Lou. the problem is you don’t give any evidence to back that up. There is only one EPL club close to administration, Portsmouth, I would be interested to know which “several” other clubs you are referring to. Besides it has nothing to do with opening the flood gates for a wage tsunami we are talking about paying people what they are deemed worth to the individual clubs not arbitrarily deciding all 22 year olds are worth the same wage simply by virtue of their age. Don’t you think their skill level and value to the on field product should have some bearing on what they are able to demand and then receive, in reason. The owners still have the option to refuse to pay the demand but the player should be free to offer his services elsewhere in return and someplace other than Europe.

  14. Berlin says:

    Glad you’re “reporting” on this Kartik. Other, more well recognized soccer “news” sources haven’t touched this topic at all. You’d hardly know the very future of the sport was at stake over the next month and half. I’m 80% with the players on this, but the sport can’t afford a work stoppage. Baseball had to sell its soul to recover and hockey still hasn’t recovered from its lockout, MLS will not survive. Soccer in America, not just short term, cannot afford a breakdown just when it’s about to transition from survival to healthy, “profitable” growth.

  15. Sternman says:

    Newer MLS Talk Readers should know a few of Kartik’s long held views. I actually think Kartik understands the games and tactics better than 99% of the American writers which is why I still come to this site regularly, and he can analyze and pick players well. He does a good job breaking down the European leagues as well. But he has some VERY wacky views about MLS relative to American players and foreign imports.

    - Kartik has advocated on more than one occasion that MLS reduce the number of foreign players from 8 to 2 or 3.
    - Kartik has advocated that half the DPs be American players
    - Kartik has advocated that foreign player salaries be capped, while the top American players be designated as DPs.
    - Kartik has time and time again without any evidence claimed American players who “return home” to MLS take a pay cut without providing any evidence of such.
    - Kartik has written probably in 50 different posts through the years that the league was built on the back of American players.
    - Kartik previously strongly advocated that TFC not be permitted to play in MLS and Puerto Rico Islanders be rejected from USL. Strangely, he supported Montreal and Vancouver in USL out of being “grandfathered.”

    So while Kartik has a great tactical mind, and knows the sport much better than the big soccer morons and most of the bloggers he has a real burr up his rear end about this players issue in MLS and has since I started reading his stuff during the 2006 World Cup.

    So in other words, expect more of these posts discussing Pablo Vitti’s salary and lauding the American player for hard work and being “screwed” by MLS ownership.

    For the record, I think MLS is becoming less and less credible and the quality of play has declined with expansion and the outflow of players. I never cared for USL either, but am excited about the new NASL, hoping they get the model right. Still, this thing isn’t all black and white and “poor player” as Kartik represents.

    By the way, Kartik GREAT PIECE ON DEMPSEY. Those who say Donovan has better technical skill, better watch that goal from last night in Stoke and then concede the point to you afterwards. Donovan would never score a goal that good in a million years and 10 reincarnations.

    • Nicole says:

      And Dempsey couldn’t score the kind of goal that Donovan did against Brazil. So what’s your point?

      The point is both Dempsey and Donovan are excellent players and the US National Team needs them both firing on all cylinders come WC 2010. You don’t need to disrespect one player in order to build up the other player. They each do just fine on their own merits.

  16. Eric says:

    Anyone who is seriously feeling sympathy for the MLS ownership group is being crazy.

    How much money has SUM made off the Mexican League, Interliga, Superliga, Friendly matches, etc?

    The situation is not the same as it was in 2005. TV ratings are up, though lower than the first few years of the league. SSS are in place all over the country. Revenues are up yet salaries are stagnant.

    That is just flat out wrong.

  17. SJTilliDie says:

    This is a terrible idea it would kill the league. No one is talking about keeping salaries flat. The owners want to increase salaries.

    But opening it up to giving the players individual free agent type rights is going way too far. It will lead to the kind of mutually assured destruction of salary arms races that doomed the NASL.

    The players should be happy to be getting any sort of raise in this economy. A lot of people out there are suffering and have lost their jobs or taken severe pay cuts and here these MLS players are trying to get changes made that will give them short term 50% pay raises at the cost of the financial viability of the league.

    They will just lose their jobs in the end when the league goes bust in a few years. My buddy’s band played at the new years party at the club at the top of the BofA building in SF – it was the clubs last night and had to shut down because the building’s union kept demanding pay raises for the employees even in this economy, now the employees working there for 25 years are out of jobs and don’t know what to do.

  18. Les says:

    Great post K

    We should all be w/ our players!

  19. Sea-town says:

    There is a lot of talk about the salaries for the players and not turning into the old NASL. The players are not trying to remove the salary cap or get massive amounts of money. From my understanding they simply want the to be able to negociate with the clubs for their contract and be able to choose where they play. Giving the players some “rights” won’t turn the MLS into the NASL, there is still a lot of differences.

  20. Sea-town says:

    There is a lot of talk about the salaries for the players and not turning into the old NASL. The players are not trying to remove the salary cap or get massive amounts of money. From my understanding they simply want the to be able to negociate with the clubs for their contract and be able to choose where they play. Giving the players some “rights” won’t turn the MLS into the NASL, there is still a lot of differences.

  21. Mickey T says:

    Giving the players the right to negotiate their own contracts directly with the club that wants their services is not going to destroy the league and neither will doing away with the ridiculous and unAmerican practice of the club retaining the rights to a player after his contract is up.

  22. Rex says:

    Please no more citing Stuart Holden’s salary. When he signed that contract he was an unheard of player signed via a tryout. In 2008 MLS tried to sign him to a new deal, but he held out thinking his best game was yet to come. At the time he was a only reserve that saw regular min.

    It was a gamble for him and it probably will pay off. Its a great tribute to his hard work and the development structure of the Dynamo (A coach like Kinnear and by veterans like Mullan, Ching, Clark).

  23. Bob says:

    Okay, how about 14 year MLS vet Steve Ralston, the all time assist leader in the league’s history making just 145k.

    The all time assist leader in any other major first division in the world would make at minimum 10 times that much.

    Our fans constantly over rate our league and say “Korea sux,” “Japan sux”, etc.

    Do you realize how much higher the basic salary is in the K-League and the J-League, and that those leagues actually have foreign players most european pundits have heard of?

    The problem is the salary structure and the continued unwillingness of the league to allow teams to control their own fates.

    This league needs to be blown up- keep a cap on salaries but get rid of all the other restrictions and stupid rules and designations.

    WTF is the point of the discovery player anyhow? MLS scouting networks in Latin America and Europe are pretty poor anyhow, and the only players “discovered” are guys who couldn’t make an impact in USL let alone MLS.

  24. Larro says:

    This is among Kartik’s top 5 pieces ever.

    After a succession of meaningless and stupid writings this hit the nail on the head.

    MLS reaction does not address the issues.

    MLS has been borderline immoral in its handling of its players

    The salaries MLS pays its players is criminal and MLS continues to make money from SUM events hand over fist while paying the players as you correctly state, PENNIES.

  25. MLS is OUR league says:

    I would like to see Kartik prohibited from covering any CBA related issues.

    It is painfully obvious he is so biased on this matter and too easily affected by the propaganda of the union bosses at FIFpro to be taken seriously.

    After all, Kartik once said MLS needed less foreign players and wanted the salaries paid to the foreign players that would be cut divided among remaining American players in the league. His articles have for years read like they were written by the union boses at the MLSPU or FIFpro.

    I suggest readers of this site check out Grant Wahl and Steven Goff’s excellent reporting on the matter.

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