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Union's Response (Re: Developmental Salaries)


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From: http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_response.html

Union's Response to League's Comments on Developmental Salaries

May 10, 2007

The comments of Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis regarding developmental players, as reported by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times this week (links to the stories are below) were insulting and disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising.

First, the Deputy Commissioner's suggestion that developmental players work "perhaps three hours a day" is not only patently false, but is also demeaning to these players. The responsibilities of developmental players in MLS are identical to those of senior roster players. This includes six and one half days per week (MLS players are only entitled, at the league's insistence, to two and a half days off per month) of training, treatment, film sessions, promotional appearances (for which developmental players are relied upon by clubs even more heavily than senior roster players) travel and various other team functions, all of which add up to full time work. Further, even to the extent that these players are willing to work multiple jobs to make up for their abysmal compensation, there are substantial restrictions (again, at MLS's insistence) on developmental players' ability to earn outside income through second jobs or soccer camps.

Second, we don't think that any developmental player would appreciate the implication by the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner that developmental players are "apprentices" or somehow engaged in a "minor league" sport. Nor should their clubs. We're sure that Andy Gruenebaum did not feel that he was in the minor leagues as he was recording three shutouts in the first five games of the season for Columbus. Nor did Adam Cristman, who is currently tied for second in the league in assists for New England, or Guy Kpene, whose assist helped lead DC to its first league win last weekend against Chivas. Despite their contributions on the field, each of these players continues to play under a developmental contract. Unless the league is considering a name change, any analogy to low level minor league baseball or apprenticeships is completely misplaced.

Third, any contention that the Union blessed the developmental system is ridiculous. The developmental system was unilaterally implemented without consultation with the players prior to the existence of the Union. At the bargaining table, MLS insisted that developmental contracts were, and would remain, a tool for clubs to keep some local summer practice players around to aid in training. When the Union objected to the system, the league refused to move forward with a CBA without developmental contracts. Although the Union was able to negotiate pay increases for developmental players and negotiate their right to receive health insurance for the first time in league history, the players' choice was to strike or accept the existence of developmental contracts. Given the state of the league in 2004, they understandably chose the latter path.

Finally, the Commissioner's comment that a developmental player is a "young kid right out of school" is ironic. The perverse fact is that many developmental players are indeed college graduates while the rookies who have the best chance to sign senior level contracts upon entering the league are those who leave college early, or who do not even enroll in college. Generation adidas players (or Project-40 players before them) are paid at a senior roster level and receive roster protection by having their salaries exempt from a team's salary budget. However, if a player stays in college through graduation, he will not be offered a Generation adidas contract. Instead, only a handful of college graduate rookies receive senior roster offers each year, making it much more likely that the decision to stay in school will be rewarded with a take it or leave it offer of a lousy developmental contract.

Developmental contracts are an embarrassment to all of us involved in MLS. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the league apparently don't yet realize this fact, or at least are unwilling to admit it.

Story Links:

Positions Available: $12,900 to Start, Advancement Possible by Jack Bell (5/9/07)


MLS, players at odds over salaries by Grahame Jones (5/8/07)


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