Partner and leader of Prince Lobel’s Soccer Law industry group, Steve Gans, was quoted in the November 1 issue of The Athletic. The article, titled “What the USL Championship’s First CBA Means for the League and Its Players,” discusses the first collective bargaining agreement between the USLPA and the USL. USLPA member Connor Tobin noted, “I’m not sure people realize how hard it is to make substantial change within a system and how involved that process is and how many people you need to get the buy-in. It’s really easy to think you can just snap your fingers and things have to be the way you want them and all this. The reality is that moving the needle significantly is a Herculean effort.”
“Lawyer Steve Gans (who has helped the players through this process) estimated that the group, which has yet to collect dues from its members per numerous sources, spent ‘over tens of thousands of hours’ pulling the deal together.” The heart of the deal is its economic baselines, which would go into effect ahead of the 2022 season. The deal would also establish three standard practices, including establishment of a per-diem for team travel, incidentals, and parking; greater structure for player appearances on behalf of their clubs; and a standardized grievance procedure for all players, helping streamline the process in any relevant event.
“The norms and the protections that have been achieved are what I think we’re really proud of,” Gans said. ”The protections that we have negotiated for are so practical. They address the realities that players face in this game. I give credit to the guys, because they come out with their experiences. They’re so thoughtful, they’re so well thought out. There’s language in there that addresses even the most intricate, beyond-the-pale experience that someone has had. They will have an immediate positive effect as opposed to some other on-paper protections that in practice, are more about optics than anything else.”
“Ultimately, the real victory is closing a three-year bartering process with a ratified deal. The Championship’s Board of Governors approval shows that clubs believe this won’t be a bad deal on their end, while a supermajority of players gave the same vote of confidence on their side. Whether or not this is a true ‘win-win,’ as Gans said, will take time to suss out. For now, though, the league can look toward longer-term visions (like an All-Star game, for which the CBA spells out player availability and bonuses) with their players’ opinions taking greater significance – truly a first for the American lower divisions.”