Oh, Bother.

Ives Galarcep is reporting, as of three hours ago, that the Major League Soccer players’ union will begin striking Monday if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by then. Since Mr. Galarcep is also a regular columnist for Fox Soccer, I think it’s safe to assume that he has access to some pretty credible sources.

The Major League Soccer logo.

Will the 2010 season begin?

This just isn’t looking good. Although he does leave some glimmer of hope, since he also reports that negotiations between the players union and the league are still going full bore.

The weird thing about all of this is that this is the first big professional sports labor tussle I’ve ever seen where both sides genuinely seem to have very good and very valid points, and both sides are making arguments that make a lot of sense. The problem is that each side’s very good and very valid points are almost totally incompatible with one another. And, let’s face it, this isn’t the NFL or Major League Baseball, which could afford to take the hit of a work stoppage and come out okay on the other side.

Here’s Galarcep from a recent Fox Sports column:

Regardless of who is right or wrong, neither side can truly afford a strike. You can argue that league owners stand the most to lose, but neither side wins if the league’s foundation is shaken. There won’t be a winner or loser if a strike happens. Even if players are ultimately blamed for pulling the trigger on a strike, both sides will shoulder the blame for letting such an important season be ruined.

Look no further than the scheduled season opener on March 25 between the Seattle Sounders and expansion Philadelphia Union for evidence of the potential impact of a strike.

With a sell-out crowd [my addition: in Seattle, the Sounders actually outdrew baseball’s Mariners in average attendance per game last year at way over 30,000 in Quest Field] all but assured and the enthusiastic fan base in Philadelphia poised to make the cross-country trip to celebrate their team’s birth, the season opener could be a historic moment for the league, but a strike could wipe that out and do irreparable harm.

The expansion Philadelphia Union has already sold over 10,000 season tickets for 2010 and is well on its way to reaching its self-imposed ceiling of 12,000 season tickets. The soccer specific stadium that’s currently under construction on the Chester, Pa. waterfront and set to open at the end of June only has a seating capacity of 18,500, making sell-outs as far as the eye can see all but certain, provided the 2010 season actually happens and starts on time.

If it doesn’t happen, how many of those season ticket holders do you think are going to be angrily demanding their money back? And, of those, how many do you think will ever end up going to games in the future?

If Major League Soccer implodes due to its current labor problems, the real tragedy of all this will be for the people of the long-suffering city of Chester, Pa., home of the Union’s new stadium. Chester has been the picture of urban blight for the last half century. The new stadium is meant to be the first piece of a redevelopment effort for Pennsylvania’s oldest city following decades of neglect beginning on the Delaware River waterfront. What will happen if Chester is left with a white elephant soccer-specific stadium for a stillborn club in a dead league, rotting alongside everything else that’s been rotting there for the last 50 years?

Those who look at the current MLS labor situation and want to say, “It’s soccer. Who cares? It doesn’t matter to anybody except a few weirdo, hard-core fans,” had better take a long, hard look at Chester first.

Those among the players and among the owners who insist that digging in your heels, not backing down, and not blinking is the best way to go at this point had also better take a long, hard look at Chester first. And then blink. Please.

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3 Responses to “Oh, Bother.”

  1. Torrey Says:

    Oh no! No soccer? We’ll be stuck watching… baseball, NASCAR, tennis, golf, or some equally slow-moving sport. I think I would even rather watch professional lacrosse, and I don’t even fully understand the rules.

    Don’t make this about the long-suffering town that banked on a long shot. Make this about the idiocy of the marginally successful league that could not control it’s own greed.

    • ianheath653 Says:

      Actually, you’d probably enjoy watching lacrosse quite a bit. I had a pretty big learning curve with it when we added it at work, too. The men’s version of the game evolved from of a bunch of Canadian ice hockey players who needed something to do over the summer picking up a Native American sport that was already around and remaking it in their image. A bunch of elements of ice hockey started creeping in, like line changes, body checking, and timed power plays. That and James Naismith, basketball’s inventor, was a lacrosse player. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that a lot of the basic strategies of basketball — setting picks, give & go, passing around the perimeter while players try to get open inside — are the same as in lacrosse. Think of it as a combination of ice hockey and basketball, and the rules will start to make perfect sense.

      As for the MLS labor issues, greed is oddly not much of a part of it on either side, which is a large part of what makes the whole fiasco so frustrating to watch. It’s more of a philosophical debate on whether or not it’s time yet to take the training wheels off the league. Nobody’s getting fabulously rich playing soccer in the US right now, nor is anybody making huge profits by owning a team yet. There aren’t any clear “greedy bad guys” to point fingers at.

  2. MLS strike could endanger league : Luke Judge | Philadelphia Union MLS Announcer Says:

    […] Oh, Bother. « A Tale Told by an Idiot […]

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