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MLS seeking to avoid more pay cuts

By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-12 09:50
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A week after triggering a force majeure clause in the collective bargaining agreement with its players, North America's Major League Soccer is proposing no more pay cuts for the 2021 season in exchange for a two-year extension of the existing CBA.

A force majeure frees both parties from liability or obligation in the event of extraordinary circumstances. MLS said it invoked the clause because of the ongoing impact of COVID-19, which commissioner Don Garber said cost the league $1 billion in revenue in 2020.

"MLS needs to address the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic and will engage in good-faith discussions with our players about ways to manage the significant economic issues we are facing," Garber said last week.

On Friday, the league presented its revised labor agreement to the MLS Players Association, proposing that players receive their full salaries after they agreed to a 5 percent pay reduction as part of a renegotiated CBA last June, when the league returned with the MLS is Back Tournament.

As part of the new proposal, MLS wants the current CBA extended through 2027.

"According to public health officials, the restrictions on attendance at live sporting events will continue far into the 2021 season," deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement.

"In 2020, despite MLS and its clubs suffering extraordinary and unsustainable losses, players received 95 percent of their salaries. To address the ongoing impact of the pandemic in 2021, MLS is proposing to extend the term of the existing collective bargaining agreement for two years rather than seeking any salary reductions.

"This proposal will help ensure the long-term health of the league while paying MLS players 100 percent of their salaries."

If an agreement on the modifications cannot be reached, the CBA from June could be terminated and the season possibly canceled.

The league and the union reached a five-year collective bargaining agreement last February, but it had not been ratified when the season was put on hold in March by the pandemic.

The deal was renegotiated ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida, with agreement on a new one that included across-the-board pay cuts and reduced bonuses. The renegotiations also included a one-year extension to the CBA through the 2025 season.

The league values the proposed two-year extension through 2027 as being worth between $100 million to $115 million.

Meanwhile, former New York Red Bulls and Inter Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles announced his retirement on the weekend. The 36-year-old spent eight years in MLS after arriving at Red Bulls from German minnow Karlsruher.

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