Major Leaguer Soccer commissioner Don Garber is optimistic about the vaccine but not the summer looking anything like a normal season for his league.
Garber said MLS is being faced with financial hurdles — losses of more than $100 million among them — that could change the way it looks at both its short- and long-term future, and says the league has not discussed a lockout as it bids to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players Association.
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“Due to the pandemic, the scale and scope of all government restrictions on attendance on live events has created challenges for our industry, certainly for Major League Soccer,” Garber said on a conference call on Tuesday. “That resulted in significant and unanticipated losses for MLS and all of our teams.
“There’s no question we’ll face restrictions on most if not all of the 2021 season.”
Garber said he’s presented a proposal to the MLSPA on how to address its CBA that does not affect player salaries and “puts the entire burden of COVID” in 2021 on the owners.
In exchange, he wants the MLSPA to extend the rest of its deal through 2025.
MLS and the MLSPA have 30 days the renegotiate the deal, and 10 days have passed. Garber said he knows the players need to look over the proposal and that the league is “laser-focused” on fixing things.
Garber says he’s targeting mid-March for the season’s start thanks to the U.S. Open Cup, Canadian Championship, Gold Cup, World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Champions League, and the CONCACAF Nations League, as well as possible postponements due to the pandemic.
ProSoccerTalk asked Garber about the challenges of addressing money issues during a pandemic, when players and fans alike are dealing with big emotions and worries, as well as the challenges presented by the extension of the CBA taking the MLSPA through a traditionally-rich World Cup year of 2022.
“[Talks are] difficult for ownership, distracting for the league office, and difficult for players who want to get on the field and do what they do best,” Garber said. “No union, no one wants to go through another negotiation. In light of COVID, we could’ve looked at structural changes that could’ve been important to solve the economic impact of 20, 21. It’s not like we’re going to snap our fingers and everything is going to go back to normal. Our league and ownership collectively that took into consideration the most emotional impact of the league and players said they can’t withstand taking salary cuts. That helps the short-term but we in the business were thinking long-term, trading the short-term hurt that can be turned into value over the long-term.”