MLS: Let’s have a lockout scenario therapy session

MLS (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MLS (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Believe me, I understand the want to panic about a potential lockout; especially in a pandemic when all we’re looking for are distractions. So, to bring some calm and reassurance to MLS fans, I’m here to be your MLS therapist. I’m here to calm your nerves, to tell you that everything is going to be okay, and you know why, because everything IS going to be okay, and here’s why.

What comes to an end at the end of the next MLS season?

If you guessed the TV deal, you’d be batting a hundred. At the end of 2022, the current eight-year 600 million dollar deal with Fox and ESPN will expire, thus opening the door for MLS to profit on the leagues’ growth over the last decade. And MLS hopes that these negotiations will be as big as other agreements made with other sports leagues around the world in recent years. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the numbers:

MLS currently earns roughly 90 million dollars per season. When you compare that to other major TV deals in North America, that’s pretty low. For example:

  • The NHL’s deal with Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, negotiated in 2013, is worth roughly 450 million dollars per season.
  • The AFL (Australian Football League), extended at the end of 2020, is, roughly, 320 million dollars per season split between three organizations, however, the deal was just extended and may be worth a little less due to the pandemic.
  • Indian Premier League (Cricket), negotiated in 2017, earns, roughly, 510 million per season.

So, the current MLS deal is due for at least a bit of a raise. This raise will be a giant boost to MLS and its teams. That boost would be very welcome as the league attempts to rebound from that thing that’s happening that we’re not going to mention.

What does this have to do with the lockout and current negotiations between the players and MLS?

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To put it simply, if MLS wants to capitalize on the expiring TV rights deal, they need to make ESPN, Fox, and Univision happy, and they need to show all of the interested media companies that the league’s product is worth buying.

The only way that they can do this is by playing games, and showing that the league’s stable. The last thing that one of these media organizations want to do is spend millions to billions of dollars on a league that won’t play because of constant labour negotiations.

So, having a lockout less than 24 months out from a brand new TV deal, wouldn’t be the wisest decision the league has ever made.

Then why is MLS threatening to enact the Force Majeure Clause and a lockout?

I don’t have any sources in MLS, so I may be completely wrong in my judgment on this, but my best guess is MLS is trying to find/use any leverage they have to try and negotiate a new CBA with the players. MLS are trying to negotiate from a position of power when they aren’t currently in that position. They want to take advantage of the pandemic to try and profit in the short term. If they can force the players into a worse CBA, they win, and the owners’ pockets get even happier.

So, where are we now?

Well, we’ve reached the second deadline that MLS set for the MLSPA, and, well, there hasn’t been ANY information announced. That doesn’t exactly bode well for striking a deal by the set-out deadline. You’re panicking again, but I want to remind you of something. MLS just released the rough schedule for this season LAST WEEK.

If MLS were actually threatening a lockout/a lockout is a possibility, there is no way they would release the possible schedule publicly. I also want to ask you how you feel about this. Are you feeling good about the owners forcing a lockout on the players in a pandemic?

Well, guess what, the league sees that frustration, outrage, statements from supporters groups, and negative PR, and they PROBABLY don’t want it to continue. Especially when it’s drawn attention from not just the MLS sphere. Other major player unions have tweeted about it including the NBAPA, MLBPANFLPA, and a multitude of other unions, making the league look even worse.

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What are my thoughts?

Well, I just wrote an article about it this past week. So, if you want my thoughts in detail, go and check it out. But, quickly, I’m not a fan of what the owners are doing. They’re trying to take advantage of the players to force them into a new CBA, and haven’t made any concessions yet, based on public knowledge.

They deserve all of the bad PR and press they’re getting because it is in such bad taste. I hope that this gets worked out very soon because I REALLY want MLS to come back and it hurts to see a league I care so much about continue to do itself harm over and over again.