Earthquakes Owner Lew Wolff Speaks Out About Labor Issues
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff gave the following statement about the ongoing labor negotiations between Major League Soccer and its Players Union.
"We are less than two weeks from the start of Major League Soccer's 15th season. Sadly, the players and their representatives say they will strike unless a new collective bargaining agreement is reached by the March 25 season opener. Being a relatively new MLS owner, I truly enjoy and appreciate our players, but I believe a strike would not be in the players, fans and owners best interests.
A strike will be a set back to the dedicated efforts of our players, coaches, management and ownership in seeking to maintain a MLS team in the Bay Area. Without labor being a cooperative partner, our plans for a new venue and expansion of our youth program will be set back for a period that certainly does not benefit the current or future players.
I feel very close to the players and I am at a loss as to how to respond when I am told that the player's union suggests that they are being treated unfairly. The MLS is seeking to build a strong league for all players, fans and owners. The Earthquakes and the majority of MLS teams did not generate a profit in 2009, nor do they expect to generate a profit in 2010. I believe that the profitability goal should be as much of a concern for the players and their union as it is to the owners.
All North American sports leagues are facing financial issues due to the economy. MLS is still a young league that is not a fully established yet. To lose the benefits that have been gained to date and to risk League stability is, in my opinion, a risk that the players and their unions need to fully consider.
Our entry into MLS was to be part of a growing and family friendly international sport, a sport that should be able to grow and thrive in North America. We do not support or even think about a "lock-out" and we hope that the players will not assume that a strike will be to their benefit or to the benefit of the sport we all love.
We, along with all MLS team owners, are deeply committed to soccer. I am hopeful that the players and their representatives will carefully measure the importance of having labor peace and recognize the negatives to the sport that a work stoppage will cause.
The collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the players union expired at the end of January 2010. I am pleased that discussions and negotiations between the players union and ownership are continuing.
The players have focused their demands on greater freedom of movement within the league and guaranteed contracts. It is my understanding that there has been some movement toward an agreement. However, it has not been enough to guarantee that the 2010 season will begin on time.
I am hoping that the importance of having a positive opening for all MLS teams and the security of a total season will be realized by the players. I believe both sides should continue negotiations without a strike. I cannot predict the negative impact of a strike on the players, fans or owners, but I am very confident that any stoppage will do more harm to all parties, especially the players, than any perceived benefits of a strike.
Our Earthquakes look very promising as the season nears. A strike will, I suggest, reverse the positive growth our players and fans have developed since we reestablished our franchise in the Bay Area.
A strike is up to the players. To assume that a strike will achieve some elements that are not being achieved by the current negotiation is a risk that I am hopeful the players and their representatives will carefully evaluate. I know some concessions have been made, but if the adjustments are not enough for the players, a strike will not, in my estimation, be the best way to achieve whatever is desired."
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