Is it posturing, or is it genuine optimism?
Hard to say, but Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber likes his league’s chances of starting the 2010 season without either a lockout or strike.
He spoke at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester, England, on Tuesday, telling the Associated Press, “We will not lock them out, and we are confident they will not go on strike. We will not make any decisions just to avoid a work stoppage. We’ve got to make decisions that will ensure the long-term financial success of the MLS, and I’m sure we will not make any decisions to prove a point.
“I don’t think any of our players want to go on strike, and we are taking their issues very seriously. The expectations are that the season will start on time, and the expectation is that we’ll reach an agreement with our players.”
The season is slated to open on March 25 in Seattle with the Sounders hosting the Philadelphia Union, but while the league has stated it will not lock out the players, there is no similar pledge in place from the players not to strike while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
Garber is still hoping to get a new deal done, telling the AP, “It’s conceivable, but my expectation is not to be negotiating an agreement an hour before kickoff. I would describe these as big-league problems. Years ago we had nothing to fight about, so we didn’t have labor issues.
“Now that the league is growing and there is a bit more at stake, the players want to see improvement in their salaries and their working conditions. And we need to understand, we need to listen and take their issues into consideration.”
I’m not prone to rampant optimism, but I don’t think Garber would go on record with comments like these unless he was fairly certain that the season opener will be going ahead as planned.
Still, until the ink is dry on a new collective bargaining agreement, it’s hard to rule anything out.