MLS: Like it or not, players will have to accept cuts

MLS has reportedly proposed 20% pay cuts to the Players’ Association. Whether they like it or not, the players will have to accept financial responsibility for the difficulties the league is facing.

Financially, the world is still counting the cost of the coronavirus. The global pandemic has shut down economies across the planet, with plenty of the major countries in the world shut down for two or even three months. Even now, in mid-May, countries are only tentatively reopening certain businesses, and that is done with very stringent social distance measures and a close eye on the number of new cases.

While it has so often seemed to separate itself from the financial pressures of normal life, sport has been, and will be, financially affected by COVID-19. And Major League Soccer is no different.

Thus far, the league has been postponed for almost two months. At present, the league has a tentative return date of June 8th in their minds. In reality, it will be July at the earliest before any matches are played. And even then, the state of those matches will be far from what would be normally. They will certainly be without fans. There are also increasing reports that MLS will feature some form of tournament-like set-up based in one or two neutral locations.

While plans have made little progress beyond the wild formulation stage, even if the season does return in some form, it will still be played behind-closed-doors. Fans will almost certainly not be at matches in any sport before a vaccine is developed which will not occur before the end of 2020.

For MLS, this is a financial disaster. They depend heavily on matchday revenue, much more so than many other leagues around the league due to their lesser TV revenue streams.

As has been necessary in all sectors across the world, cuts have come. Businesses have closed. Millions of people have been made redundant or placed on different furlough schemes depending on the country they are from. The economy has shut down, and industries have had to adapt as a result. MLS, and football more generally, is no different here.

This week, ESPN reported that the league has the Players Association will agree to a 20% pay cut. Discussions have been ongoing between the two parties, discussing the impact of COVID-19 and what their collective response will be. It seems as though MLS has settled on what they feel is a fair compromise.

If that is indeed the case, the players should accept. They will, of course, be extremely hesitant to accept a 20% decrease in pay, especially considering the wealth of the owners who contribute to MLS, but there is also a moral aspect to this: the players are played to play football. That is how they produce value. And, of course, at present, they are not playing.

Just as hospitality staff have been laid off and normal workers have been forced to take pay cuts due as their business feel the strain, footballers cannot also be immune to the current crisis.

Players, then, should accept the pay cut. Whether they like it or not, MLS, like almost every other business at present, is feeling the financial strain. And that requires a response.