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Sounders owner says strike could sink MLS

Post by Don Ruiz / The News Tribune on March 16, 2010 at 11:41 am with 10 Comments »
March 17, 2010 9:50 am

Sounders majority owner Joe Roth spoke publicly for the first time today about the possibility of the league’s players going on strike next week.

Here’s my story for the Wednesday paper, and here were the highlights:

*His bottom line is that the players should continue to negotiate at a table while league play goes on. He said that a strike would be at the least a shame … and at the most it could sink the league.

“From an entertainment standpoint, we haven’t made enough of an imprint on the national psyche,” he said. “… I don’t think there will be a national outcry like with the NFL if somehow we wouldn’t be out there for a year — which would be terrible. Everyone would lost their jobs, we would all lose our franchises, and that would be that. I just don’t think that we can afford, in terms of the public’s eye, that we can take a year off.”

He also said:

* An MLS strike could play out like to a recent writers strike in Hollywood, where no one benefited from that and many lost out.

To try to solve this dispute through a strike “is misguided, somewhat romantic and a terrible idea,” he said.

* The league is still a baby, and one that survives because of the single-entity system that allows it to survive.

* The idea of a strike is particularly badly timed because the general state of the economy makes this a time when “everyone is taking a haircut.”

* Most of the “lifestyle and dignity” issues have been resolved in the players’ favor through mediation.

* The Sounders play the $30 million entry fee basied on the exisiting system. He added that it’s no coincidence that it is the recent franchises — Toronto and Seattle — who look most like major league franchises. The earlier franchises, he said, paid their dues in harder times. He said every franchise needs to try to step up its game, but that there is no division between the haves and have-nots or the big markets and the small.

*A strike during a World Cup year “feels destructive.”

* There are issues to revolve and the CBA can be improved, but a radical restructuring is a bad idea.

* He said the union “may not believe” the financial situation of the owner. But after a follow-up question he said he thinks it isn’t just a matter of the owners asking the players to believe and that he understands that some hard figures have been made available.

* Roth says he gets updates on the situation every day. He said he was optimistic until recently, but became pessimistic after a recent call.

* He stressed that while not speaking for the league, he personally would be willing to leave resolution to binding arbitration. That came in response to a question about why the players should believe that they can negotiate a solution without the treat of a strike when that’s what they’ve been trying to do — unsuccessfully — since the end of last season.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. I agree that a prolonged strike could sink the league. I think the season should start and continue even though no agreement has been made yet. The continuity and excitement established by Seattle, then Philly, then Vancouver and Portland, is going to be EXTREMELY important in providing a reason for casual soccer fans to tune it. A prolonged strike would not be good at this point in time.

  2. joepublic says:

    Hard to disagree with him on the point that nobody would pay much notice. For a strike to work, seems to me the strikers would need to be depriving folks of something they just can’t live without. I am sympathetic with the players, but it’s not like they’ve got a corner on the market or anything.

    Meantime, Goff with video of the new Red Bulls park: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/soccerinsider/2010/03/video_red_bull_arena.html#comments

    Looks very nice.

  3. blahbl4hblah says:

    They are striking because the MLS isn’t taking the players seriously. Yeah, if there was a prolonged strike, the MLS would probably tank. Guess what? That’s the reason they ARE threatening to strike. The MLS has too much to lose (everything actually) and while the players will suffer from it, they HAVE to prove to the MLS that they are serious.
    I have yet to see a VALID reason for the MLS to refuse the requests of the players. They are just expecting the players to give in. The threat to strike is to show they won’t be pushed over.
    I’ll be pissed about a strike, but it’s the MLS that is forcing it.

  4. jonathan says:

    The good news is that it’s soccer and only relevant to europeans & 35 year old women who think real sports are too violent for their babies. This is why I oppose public funding for stadiums, because my money always ends up being spent on things that are stupid like soccer & “public art”.

  5. Go away Jonathan.

  6. elmocatt says:

    @ jonathan – guess there are a lot more europeans and 35 year old women in seattle than I had thought – given this season the sounders have practually sold out the entire 35,000 season tix.

    And hope you are not a Seahawk fan – since they appear to have been wasting a lot more of your tax dollars all the years they have been at Qwest – since 2002.

    Finally, let me know what you are interested in – so I can go to those bolgs and mock your lame interests/past-times.

    Never understood soccer haters – if you don’t like something, stay away.
    I could care less about NASCAR, for example, but realise others do and that is fine for them.

  7. derekyoung says:

    I really don’t understand why someone would bother reading a sports blog and commenting if they don’t like the sport. I’m no fan of cricket. Don’t get it, never will, but I can’t imagine bothering to denigrate the people who do. Particularly if the entire world loves the sport. I like football too but almost nobody else plays it and it’s got plenty of weird rules to laugh at.

    That said, I think Roth makes good points. I tend to side with the players on these issues but a strike would be a disaster. I really hope this is an empty threat because it would destroy this league.

  8. jimkingjr says:

    Nobody would pay much notice? Theyonly people the players need to have notice are the owners and Garber. Shut it down, and the players will be taken seriously by the only ones that matter- and that is not the public.

  9. Weirdocomic says:

    The last time I went to a message board just to flame was an Oklahoma City Thunder board before they played their first game there. The thrill and the rush lasted about a post or two. Then I realized I was being dumb.

    I wish everyone would understand that there seems to be a viable future for the MLS based on what Seattle put up last season and the addition of the Vancouver/Portland franchises. How great was it to be able to put a Sounders home game on nationally as compared to a game in KC to a empty stadium? They say perception is reality. Watching the fun they were having at Quest should have been making the mouths of the other teams water. Lets not throw the whole thing down the toilet yet please.

  10. sounderfan83 says:

    seriously jonathan! I’m in the same boat as Weirdocomic. I am a Sounders season ticket holder and am bais towards my team, so take this how you will.

    Having the Sonics ripped away from us was no easy thing to get over. However, being a soccer fan to begin with, I was thrilled when I learned that Seattle was getting a team. I understand that the leagues in the rest of the world are much better, but look at how long the MLS has been around! Every sports league needs time to mature and the MLS is no exception.

    This is just the beginning of an exciting time for MLS! The Sounders are having enormous success that other teams should model themselves after. With the addition of Portland and Vancouver next year, the “I-5″ rivalry will start. And lets face it, rivalries are good for sports!

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