Business of Soccer Archive

1

Without a CBA in place, there’s a “possibility” union action could see Montreal, DCU forfeit CCL matches

“The Collective Bargaining Agreement is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2015,” Foose wrote in an e-mail. “When it expires, the obligation not to engage in a work stoppage also expires. I do not want to comment on when or if there would be a work stoppage. All I can say is that unless there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, there is always the possibility of a work stoppage.”

The Montreal Impact is scheduled to be in Mexico on Feb. 24, as the team is scheduled to open its two-match CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final with Pachuca. Two days later, D.C. United is scheduled to meet Alajuelense in Costa Rica.

But what if those games are forfeited by the MLS sides — because the players are in a work-stoppage situation?

Unless a new deal is reached quickly, there’s a good chance that there will be no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between MLS and its players union in February. The current deal expires in January and the sides are only in the first stages of negotiations.

Now, it needs to be stated that in 2010, when the union and the MLS only came to a deal just days before the start of the league’s regular season, the CCL matches went on unaffected.

But that don’t-play option is open to the players if there is no CBA in place.
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4

Dear MLS, please kill the No. 4 vs No. 5 playoff game dead

MLSlogoplayoffsFor a guy who writes about soccer as much as I do, loves the game as much as I do, I surprise myself about how many times I wonder if there are too many matches being played.

The world would be a better place without the League Cup (we get to see who the big clubs put on the bench today!), meaningless friendlies, North American summer tours by European clubs… They are like the cheapest of Scotch; too much exposure to these things, and you might get so turned off that you forsake the good stuff, too.

And, if Major League Soccer cared about the integrity of its playoff system, it would do the world a favour and jettison the No. 4 vs. No. 5 conference playoff games.

Wednesday’s match, which saw FC Dallas end the Whitecaps season with a 2-1 win, was another example of why the No. 4 vs. No. 5 playoff game is a massive issue. The announced attendance was 10,279. Almost Chivas bad. But, as anyone in Sports Marketing 101 would tell you, what do you expect when a team is expected to sell playoff tickets for a game that happens on a midweek evening, just three days after the regular season ends?
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3

Turfgate: Canadian Soccer Association will argue Ontario tribunal has no right to rule on Women’s World Cup venues in other provinces

fwwc2015_oe_4ct_lThe Canadian Soccer Association and its lawyers are prepared to argue that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has no jurisdiction to hear a complaint that the use of turf surfaces at the 2015 Women’s World Cup is an example of gender inequality.

That’s because the HRTO is a provincial body, not a federal one. And, because five of the six venues for the Women’s World Cup are outside of the province of Ontario, the question is why the HRTO would hear the case in the first place. The final will be held at BC Place in Vancouver. More games will be held in Alberta — at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium — than any other host city. So why hear the case in Ontario?

Sean Hern, a lawyer with the Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP firm that’s representing the CSA, says it’s the legal question that his side will press at the tribunal. In a conference call held Wednesday, he said it is “unclear how tribunal would have jurisdiction over playing surfaces and stadiums in another province.”

In the minds of the CSA and its lawyers it’s “likely” that the HRTO does not have jurisdiction over what goes on in other provinces, and Hern says it’s a matter that will be argued.

A group of elite women’s players have applied to the HRTO to hear their pleas for the 2015 WWC to not be held on artificial turf. They claim it’s a second-class surface which causes more injuries than playing on grass. But the CSA claims that turf surfaces designated as FIFA two-star are first-class, and are allowed by the sport’s governing body.
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1

Flying coach: Cancellation forces FC Edmonton to ad lib travel plans to Tampa

fcedmonton-logo_rgb_jpgformatFC Edmonton’s staff and players are over the moon about teenage midfielder Hanson Boakai’s first call-up to the senior Canadian national side. But, soaring to Florida is turning out to be an issue.

The Eddies were all scheduled to leave Friday morning for Chicago and then get a connecting flight to Florida. The Eddies are set to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.

But, it didn’t go so well. The Eddies found out late Thursday night that the Edmonton-Chicago flight was going to be cancelled. That’s because the incoming flight from Houston on Thursday night, which was supposed to be turned around and used for the Chicago trip the next day, was cancelled because of inclement weather.

So, the Eddies’ staff scrambled late last night to try and find alternate flying arrangements for the team. Most of the team were able to get on one common connecting flight out. Other players are on another route. And the coaches were still in Edmonton late Friday morning, as they will be the last ones to get out.

Ah, the joys of flying coach.
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6

FC Edmonton expands Academy, adds U-16 program

Jeff Paulus

Jeff Paulus

According to owner Tom Fath, FC Edmonton won’t break even until Clarke Stadium is expanded and the team is drawing an average of 8,500 fans a game.

Since an expansion of the stadium isn’t in the cards yet — and the team has broken the 4,000-ticket mark just twice this season — the fact that the NASL club continues to grow is a testament to the Fath family’s commitment to the game in Canada.

On Wednesday, the club announced it is expanding its Academy program. It is adding a program for U-16s. So, next season the team will have both a U-18 wing and a U-16 section to develop local soccer talent.

“The addition of a U-16 program is another positive step in the growth of the FCE Academy,” said assistant coach and FCE Academy supervisor Jeff Paulus in a release issued by the club. “Not only is this positive step froward for the future goals of FC Edmonton, but it also cements FCE as an important member of the Canadian Soccer Associations player development pathway.”
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6

NASL Commissioner Peterson: Canadian expansion talks in next 60-90 days

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson was in Edmonton for Sunday’s game between the Eddies and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He was on hand to thank Edmonton City Council for approving the new $1.25-million permanent-football-line free turf that was installed at Clarke Stadium in July.

Of course, when he met with the press, the subject of expansion and a rumoured NASL Canada league came up.

And he said some expansion conversations are heating up.

“We have had discussion in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and over the next 60 to 90 days we expect to have more discussions in Canada,” said Peterson.
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7

MLS announces a major rebrand: Should the league have considered changing its name?

MLS_Next_126Major League Soccer has a new logo. Refreshingly, it does not have a soccer boot crashing into a ball, as the outgoing one did.

(For two decades, it was nice to be reminded by a soccer league that has “Soccer” in its name that, indeed, its teams do play soccer.)

The new logo is remarkably simple, with “MLS” in a simple wordmark on a stylized shield split into two halves. One half bears three stars — and the other is left blank. The shield’s colour scheme can be altered to match any of the league’s teams — and the cynic will say that’s a reminder of the fact that, even though you may have a club to call your own, in the end it’s the league office that controls contracts and calls the shots.

It’s also incredibly bold for a league to announce a change in the way it markets itself, going into a year where a new Collective Bargaining Agreement needs to be negotiated. The current CBA expires after this season.

“Our new brand and crest are the result of an iterative process that has helped us better understand the world in which we operate in. The outcome is not an evolution, but a revolution,” Howard Handler, the league’s chief marketing domo, said at a news conference held Thursday in New York.

But there’s something I hope came up at the marketing meetings. If MLS has decided to go ahead with a major rebranding of itself, it should tackle what is maybe its own worst enemy. And that’s its name.

Major League Soccer.
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3

Leiweke’s departure: Toronto soccer supporters can’t be blamed for fearing for the future

leiwekeNo doubt, the next few days worth of stories in the Toronto media will feature a lot of he-sad, she-said.

There will be speculation over the magical straw that broke the camel’s back at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. What was the major reason (or reasons) that spurred the company and its high-profile head to announce their impending divorce?

Was it the failure to get an NFL team? Or the rumoured dislike the Leiweke clan holds for the Canadian winter? The fact there are no In ‘N’ Out Burger outlets to be found in the GTA? Conflicts between the outgoing CEO and the MLSE board?

In the end, it doesn’t matter. The optics of the situation are simple. MLSE announced Thursday that CEO Tim Leiweke will step down by the end of next June, or earlier if a suitable replacement is found. And that means one of the highest-profile venue builders and managers in all of North American sport will fall well short of fulfilling even half of his five-year mandate.

And the question will be, if Leiweke is chewed up by the Toronto sports cauldron, who could take the job without being a well-paid yes-man? Thanos, maybe?
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1

Stats show link between number of draws and playoffs; are there lessons there for MLS?

MLS-logoAs of Thursday, 31.7 per cent of Major League Soccer’s game end in draws.

That’s not a number that falls far from the conventional soccer wisdom that says that between a quarter and 30 per cent of all games will end in ties. But, probability changes as the game evolves. And, if you look at other leagues around the world, the 30-per-cent-draw figure isn’t such an accurate reflection of how the game is being played nowadays. The rate of draws is actually closer to 20 per cent, if you look at the major Euro circuits.

In the previous English Premier League season, just 78 of 380 matches ended in draws — or a shade above 20 per cent. Major League Soccer has seen 61 draws already, in just 192 games played so far in 2014.

In the previous Bundesliga campaign, 64 of 306 matches ended in draws. Just a bit under 21 per cent, and consistent to the English trend. In Spain, 86 of 380 matches were even after full time, a rate of 22.6 per cent. A little higher than in England or Germany, but nowhere close to MLS.

In the 2013 season, MLS had a 25.4 draw percentage. Slightly higher than the elite-European-league norm, but 2014 is trending upwards, thanks to the likes of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire, who each have drawn more than half of the games on their schedules (and, so fitting, played to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday).
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13

FCE raves about new longer and wider pitch at Clarke Stadium

ClarkeTurfFor FC Edmonton’s players, there was cause for celebration, Tuesday.

After two and a half seasons of playing on the rock-hard, football-line filled turf at Clarke Stadium, the Eddies were able to train on the new FieldTurf surface for the first time.

“It’s quite nice,” said assistant coach Jeff Paulus. “It plays as close as we can get to real grass. I think it’s now the best artificial surface in the country. I can’t think of anything better.”

The installation of the $1.2 million, FIFA-approved turf at Clarke Stadium finishes two years worth of lobbying to get a surface that was free of the football lines. The lines can be painted on for junior and high-school football games played at the facility.

The new turf also allowed FC Edmonton the chance to expand the field dimensions — both length and width. The old dimensions saw the goal lines placed on the goal lines of a Canadian football field, 110 yards apart. The new field is now 115 yards long by 75 yards wide.
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