In response, players have refused to report for voluntary workouts.
Major League Soccer has pushed back against the MLS Players Association’s counterproposal regarding changes to the collective bargaining agreement, and the league threatened a lockout if the players union does not accept MLS’ offer by noon Tuesday, according to reports.
The Columbus Dispatch was able to independently confirm the story through a person with knowledge of the situation who was granted anonymity to speak about the private negotiations.
In response to the league’s approach, the source confirmed to The Dispatch that players across MLS are refusing to show up Monday for voluntary individual workouts ahead of the league’s attempted resumption of the 2020 season.
The Fire began individual workouts on Friday.
After weeks of debate between the league and the players about how the suspended season would resume, the union approved a plan that would have all 26 MLS teams take part in a tournament in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. According to reports, that tournament would start with two weeks of training on June 24, followed by three games in a group stage and then a knockout round that would conclude six weeks after teams arrived.
The holdup involves how much money the league wants to retain from the collective bargaining agreement the two sides agreed to in principle in February.
On Sunday evening, MLSPA released a statement announcing that the union had approved the Orlando plan and that its counteroffer to the league’s changes to the CBA included salary reductions across the player pool, reduced individual and team bonuses, and concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA.
The union also proposed adding a year to the CBA, extending it through 2025. The total concessions the union has made to that February CBA due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic exceed $100 million, the union said.
Within hours, ESPN reported through sources that MLS was insisting that it had sent its best offer. ESPN television analyst Herculez Gomez tweeted that MLS had given MLSPA until noon Tuesday to accept the league’s offer.
The five-year CBA deal agreed to in February was not ratified before the league suspended the season on March 12 amid the pandemic.
The most significant differences in MLS’ proposed amendments to the CBA and the union’s counteroffer involve revenue based on a new media deal after the 2022 season, salary cuts and a condition that would allow the league to back out of the deal.
The latter sticking point refers to a force majeure clause, which allows either party to back out of the CBA in the case of an extraordinary event that disrupts business, such as a pandemic. ESPN reported, and The Dispatch confirmed, that the union proposal did not contain this clause, while the league’s proposal does.
Regarding revenue sharing from a media rights deal that begins in 2023, both the league and the union agreed in February that teams would get 25% of the total increase in media rights that exceeded $100 million to put into salary budgets and pools of general allocation money. MLS proposes changing that percentage to 10% in 2023 and 25% in 2024. MLSPA countered with 17% in 2023 and 25% in 2024.
MLSPA also countered MLS’ proposed 8.75% pay cut across the player pool with a 7.5% pay cut.
These details were reported by ESPN and confirmed independently by The Dispatch.
The return-to-play plan, if approved by owners, would require players and staff members to quarantine in a hotel throughout the tournament, and COVID-19 testing would be conducted regularly. Games would be played without fans in attendance.
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