Will there be an NWSL work stoppage 1 FEB?

The Players Association just sent this message out yesterday, reminding us (and the League negotiating team, obviously) of the short time remaining before the PA’s “no CBA/no play” ultimatum kicks in.

Here’s the thing about all this: the elephant in the room is revenue.

The NWSL is severely undercapitalized compared to other US sports. It’s better than it was in 2013, but in absolute terms? There’s just not that much money in the pot.

So if the players’ are making a huge ask – say complete, unrestricted free agency for every player with more than a year’s seniority, say, and a 50% increase in salary across the board and a 50% increase in the cap?

That is likely to be a hill many or most of the owners will die on. How much did they make from fucking Twitch last season? How much did they lose from COVID? How much are teams like Chicago and Houston making from gates in the low thousands?

I can see all but the most devoted owners being willing to let go rather than pony up that much.

I want to think that the PA understands the financials, too, and is making a strong but reasonable case for better pay and allowances. But I could also see the players – frustrated after years of shitty pay and crappy conditions and the past year’s revelations of shitty coach shenangains – basically wanting to make the owners bend the knee and to hell with practical considerations.

So it’s entirely possible that both sides can manage to collide over the CBA in such a way that it kills the thing they’re fighting over. I hope not. But it happened with WUSA and WPS. There’s nothing cast in stone that says it can’t happen now.

The players should be paid a decent wage and allowances. The players shouldn’t have to shower in an RV after practice, or sleep in bedbug-ridden motels on the road, or buy their own cleats. The players should be respected and treated as professionals by their coaches and owners.

But to demand that the players can get what NBA or MLB or NFL players are making? Or what Aulas is paying his mercenaries, or what stars of teams bankrolled by the oil sheiks of ManCity or the Russian oligarchs of Chelsea make?

That’s…not really realistic.

We’ll just have to wait and hope that both sides are being financially sensible.

Update 1/26 p.m.: Friend of the Blog Constant Weeder has the goods

“According to Kassouf, the sticking points are:
1) “Details” of free agency – which I assume means things like how much freedom for how many years in the league.
2) Length of contract – NWSL wants six years, players want a shorter deal, so as not to be locked into a low payscale if the Olympics and World Cups create a bigger audience for soccer.”

Glad the payscale issue is off the table. And I don’t see the league balking too hard at three or four years rather than six; given the MLS examples it’s just as likely that the audience might not change that much, and the international attention might not trickle down, so in three years the owners might be able to renegotiate a pay drop!

But free agency might be difficult; it has a big range of costs, and I can see the two sides having a tough time deciding what’s fair. My guess is that they’ll hammer something out, but I could see this being an impasse, instead.

John Lawes
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