As we mentioned way back in January, TSG didn’t want to give a lot of site space to the potential work stoppage by MLS, both from being a voice one way or the other and because we believed most of the information getting thrown around was just rhetoric.
We’ve been contacted via email and twitter by readers predominantly to endorse the players’ grievances. In good conscience and in offering our objective opinion, we can’t do this outright.
When someone asks us “who we’re for” in the skirmish, we say, “Resolution.”
Sadly, nothing much has changed from a concrete action standpoint since our last column. The players are threatening a strike, this time with a date looming right around the corner while the owners remained unified and stout in their belief that the status quo should be a plausible condition to begin work for all in 2010.
Just some short thoughts here from TSG–that again haven’t changed much–since our last commentary.
• Still believe that strike won’t happen by the way.
• What Have You Been Doing?!
TSG will take umbrage with the lack of timely resolution here. While every business negotiation has a factor or time sensitivity or immediacy, don’t you think that both sides should have agreed–or not agreed and just acted–to a hard-stop date for work stoppage weeks ago? MLS President Paul Abbott was quoted by the AP last week acknowledging that ticket sales haven’t been hurt…TSG has recently has asked for some qualifications of that statement.
Qualifications like: How is that being measured? Does that take into account (or remove from calculations) the Philly Union who weren’t in the league last year?
Less on the data side, have both the union and the players stopped to consider that they could be doing better on ticket sales if they were spending time marketing the product instead of marketing their issues?
• Money Talks
TSG linked to AEG Live’s Tim Leiweke’s staunch comments against a player’s strike early this week.
The most prescient quote: “We do this out of passion. If this were a business, we would have quit this 10 years ago.” (Strikethrough qualified in comments section)
…and he is nearly spot-on.
MLS is bad business at this juncture in time 2010. It is better business than it was a few years ago and will hopefully be better business in, say, 2012. In business, the goal is to turn a profit.
Now first, the caveat to Leiweke–who TSG has met in person–making these comments is that there is value beyond the profit dollars to MLS teams, for AEG specifically. As AEG is one of the largest venue owners in the nation, and the world, it is important they keep their venues operating for as many days of the year as possible.
By turning more volume, on concessions, parking, etc, it allows for more top-line revenue growth–making the broader company more valuable to shareholders. Top line revenue growth for large cap company is more valuable than profit dollars.
So while MLS club investors may be worse off, that is not entirely true for Leiweke’s AEG.
That being said, Leiweke is correct. Without the owner’s willingness to apply their capital in a risky market domain, there would be no MLS. Further, you need to make the league is attractive to other owners, even or especially potential advertising sponsors, by having it around for awhile, showing financial success and making those sponsors confident that it is a burgeoning entity worth getting behind.
What we’re not saying is that the players are wrong; but the question posed is, “All things being equal, would you rather play MLS soccer next season or not? Just how untenable is the situation? Would players, let’s say with the lowest of salaries, still say that they would not play outright?
• TSG’s Brass Tacks
Some of these we’ve spoken about already. Big caveat, TSG has spent little research time here…see opening of column for why if you missed it.
» MLS players, let your club rights be retained by that club in perpetuity.
Why? You can’t have a league without decent strength top to bottom. Your telling me someone might not jump at slightly less money to move from say Kansas City to Los Angeles. Players, let this one go.
If the league is going to draw on a night in and night out basis, there can’t be a Detroit Lions or Pittsburgh Pirates franchise.
Those respective teams in the NFL and the MLB can offset financial losses because of the popularity of the sport: the volume of gate receipts, extras, and television revenue.
MLS doesn’t have the attendance to do this (another reason MLS soccer parks work better than cavernous arenas and stadiums that take more upkeep….there’s more, but that’s one reason.)
Holding a player’s rights is not about a form of “slavery” as some somewhat ignorant opinions suggest, it’s about not losing the value of a player for nothing. That would cripple some of the smaller market teams.
MLS owners, again, are business people. They’re not going to hold on to a player they have the rights to just for spite; they look at the player as an asset to get value for.
As we mentioned last week, Kevin Hartman…well, he got dealt.
We understand players are fearful of losing their own personal leverage with only one club to negotiate with, but let’s stop for a second and ask again, how many teams are *making* money, one..maybe two?
» MLS owners, guarantee the some contracts
If a player is going to commit themselves to training, being in-form, and working for the “non-exciting” wages they do, it’s a disservice not make the reward the guarantee since it certainly isn’t the dollar level.
If your general manger and their staff cannot pick the players appropriately, well that’s where the fault lies.
That was our sentiments in January. After some deliberation, let’s caveat it as well and say, “Guarantee everyone’s salary under $88,000–the median salary. If a player makes above this, guarantee it up to $88,000.”
It’s not the lower end of the spectrum contracts that kill you, it’s the upper spec ones.
Edson Buddle made $179,000 in 2009…that might not sting Los Angeles, but it could washout Colorado perhaps.
Seems like a reasonable compromise, no?
First, TSG will tread lightly here…again we haven’t researched. Read at your own peril.
Frankly, if there is no salary cap, then there should be no salary floor. Landon Donovan will make somewhere way above $900K this year. If a salary floor is authored, where does that put Donovan’s ability to command that high compensation?
That’s all we’re saying on this one before we are in over our heads.
So I guess when it all boils down, TSG is for resolution and overall success of MLS….as a fan…so I can start growing as a fan with the game and the players without interruption or fear of closure.
Does that put us on the “side” of the owners? No. Does it put us on the side of the players? No.
It puts us on the side of the fan.
All this being said, still don’t see a strike happening.