MLS Players Association executive director Bob Foose says that MLS has not approached the union about players taking salary cuts, and added that the league's teams are better equipped than others throughout the world to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
MLS has been shut down since March 12, and isn't scheduled to resume until May 10, though that seems optimistic at this stage give that there is also a training moratorium currently in place through April 24. There is a distinct possibility that the moratorium will be extended.
The shutdown has applied pressure on MLS, with some headquarters employees forced to accept as much as a 25% pay cut, though salaries of entry level employees remained unchanged. That move has yet to trickle down to clubs employees or players.
"We haven't heard anything from [MLS]; there has been no kind of proposal or anything like that on reducing pay," Foose said in an exclusive interview. "We obviously are attuned to the business impact of what's going on and are having those conversations with the league as best we can."
Foose confirmed that there is no "force majeure" clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with MLS that would give the league a contractual right to implement reductions in player wages due to an event like a pandemic. The two sides agreed on a framework for a new CBA back in February, but Foose said that the work of finalizing the deal has been pushed to the backburner as the league attempts to navigate its way through the pandemic.
"If we do settle down a little bit, then obviously [the CBA is] one of the things we can jump back into, which is just looking at the actual CBA language and that kind of stuff," he said. "I think most of that is fairly straightforward. Our term sheet actually has a lot of the sort of agreements that were written already in CBA-like type language. It gets easier each time. So I don't anticipate problems there. I think we will turn to it when we can turn to it."
Outwardly, MLS is still hoping to play a full season, with one scenario seeing the league starting up again in July. But that would require games being played every three to four days, a schedule that runs the risk of overloading players. Foose echoed the league's desire to play as many games as possible, but admitted that a middle ground in terms of workload will have to be reached.
"There will be some limit for sure in terms of the load that we think they can take on," said Foose. "But at the same time, we obviously understand that it's in all of our interests to play as many games as we can play safely. It's just so hard to plan any of that right now, because we just don't know what the world's going to look like.
"This is pure speculation on my part, but part of me thinks that when we reach some kind of a plateau [with the pandemic] we at least will have the ability to make some predictions that are better than what we have right now, which feels a little like throwing darts at a dartboard."
Foose feels that MLS's relative financial stability will allow it to navigate its way through the pandemic better than some of their counterparts around the world.
"Many, many clubs in England and in Europe are pretty close to the edge in terms of insolvency on a good day," said Foose. "So it's a very real, very immediate issue for them. Which isn't to belittle the financial consequences that all kinds of businesses are going to feel here, but I think our league is on very solid footing, thanks to a lot of work that's been done through the years and then the makeup of who owns our teams.
"This is hard. We were at a place where we came into this season with a lot of optimism and really feeling good about where we were collectively, and ready to have a just a fantastic season and so to have that momentum halted is, is tough. But I do feel confident that we'll work through what's out there."