Gulati says tone has shifted in CBA talks

Dan Lauletta January 31, 2017 32
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says CBA negotiations with the players have taken a more positive tone

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says CBA negotiations with the players have taken a more positive tone

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said over the weekend at the tone of negotiations with the USWNT Players Association had taken a turn for the better since the players made a change in legal representation

“They’ve got new representation,” Gulati said over the weekend in San Diego where the men’s national team played Serbia to a scoreless draw. “There’s a completely different tone in the discussions.”

The players replaced Rich Nichols in late December and have not publicly announced his replacement. They have also shuffled the deck among players with prominent roles. Carli Lloyd recently stepped back and Christen Press has taken a more prominent role. Gulati’s comments were made during a media scrum and were reported by Scott French of FourFourTwo.

The federation’s collective bargaining agreement with the players has been a source of tension for years. The sides came to an impasse in 2013 before signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) but never a new CBA per se. The MOU expired at the end of 2016 however either side must give 60 days’ notice to terminate the agreement and enact a work stoppage. Neither side has publicly acknowledged starting the clock and Gulati’s comments suggest finalizing a new deal could be closer than a work stoppage.

{THE LOWDOWN: Ceding my voice to the masses on the issues of the day}

Speaking at the NWSL Draft and USWNT camp respectively, commissioner Jeff Plush and U.S. co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn refused to guarantee that national team players will be with their clubs in preseason without a new deal.

“That will have to run its course and when that gets done, those players will be in camp as well,” Plush said of the negotiations. “I have a lot of confidence in the long term.

“I’m not going to comment on what could happen.”

The next day Sauerbrunn said players had “every intention” of being in NWSL camps but would not make it a guarantee. Beyond that players have been mostly quiet on the matter since a 60 Minutes appearance in November. They spent much of 2016 insisting on a deal that gave them the same pay structure as the men’s team.

Gulati added that meetings are set up over the next few weeks and that he remains hopeful.

“We’ve had two or three meetings, and there’s a series of meetings set up for the next few weeks, and I’m hopeful because there’s a completely different tone to the dialogue.”

  • Steglitz49

    Meanwhile, some good news from France:

    • rkmid71

      “For all the guys who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, remember that’s where the knives are kept.”

  • wosofan

    Christen Press is best used off the bench whether in games for the USWNT or in negotiations.

  • rkmid71

    “They spent much of 2016 insisting on a deal that gave them the same pay structure as the men’s team.”

    Is that true?

    • tonysocref

      Probably not. Venture to guess that they wanted not only the same pay structure as the men but also the continuance of their guaranteed WNT/NWSL salaries.

      • rkmid71

        The question was somewhat rhetorical. I think the answer is the opposite of what was stated. They were not insisting on the same pay “structure” — they wanted a better deal than the men as you suggest.

        • guest

          and the uswnt players were hoping that deceiving the american public would help them get that unequal deal.

  • Som Termanni

    Gulati to be present at A+E Networks/NWSL announcement on Thursday, 10 a.m. ET:

    • Bruce

      Talks with Nickelodeon and the Food Network must have fallen through.

      Tip of the cap to kernel_thai for calling this a month ago.

      • Som Termanni

        I’m seeing a lot of praise for going with an “unconventional network” with no sports experience and a largely female audience, as if WUSA/PAX didn’t happen. I dug up this 2003 story where a bunch of WUSA and TV execs all agree the PAX deal all but sank the league right when it should’ve been growing on a sports-experienced network, which should be bracing reading:

        • Bruce

          Uff. A+E, History and Lifetime are all generally on basic cable and reach about 100 million households each. That might work.

          Their minor properties are so far up the dial that I doubt anyone will even be able to tune in, even if they know the games are being broadcast.

          • Som Termanni

            Lifetime reaches 91-93M as of 2016. PAX had 84M homes in 2003, in a smaller total market.

          • Bruce

            Personally hoping the games are on the History Channel so we can see the ghost of 2012 Alex Morgan.

          • Steglitz49

            You might get the ghosts of Miyama, Sawa and Marta cluttering up the screen too, including Shark Island Girl and any other Giovanna Foreigner who played in the now defunct US women’s leagues.

          • Steglitz49

            With 315m population, those figures sound like they reach every household in the USA. Is this possible?

          • Som Termanni

            Yes. These networks are on basic cable. Everyone with any cable sub has these channels–more households than ESPN or FS1 by 8-12M.

            So was PAX 15 years ago for WUSA, and Lifetime 10 years ago for WNBA, and neither of them topped 150k/match. WUSA had 400k on TNT, with less reach, before moving to PAX, which had 80% and higher female demo slice. WNBA more than doubled its ratings as soon as they left Lifetime for ESPN2, which had less reach.

          • Steglitz49

            How many households are there in the USA? With a population of 315 million, reaching 100 million households sounds like an exaggeration.

          • Bruce

            I think that number is correct. Two large companies (Time-Warner and Comcast) absolutely dominate cable in the US and the main A+E channels are bundled into the base subscription of each.

  • Reality

    “Carli Lloyd recently stepped back and Christen Press has taken a more prominent role.”

    If only that would happen on the pitch. As regards the negotiations, I wonder if this change in player representation is a factor in producing this new found optimism.

    • rkmid71

      No doubt in my mind your last sentence is true. But Gulati couldn’t say that. He had to blame lack of prior progress on the lawyer. They were badly advised! What would be interesting to know is dynamics at to how the USWNTPA voted to change representation and tactics..Sounds to me like Sauerbrunn is taking charge as captain or perhaps that her views are now carrying the day..Lloyd is trusting that the new team reps will get a “fair deal” — now she just wants to play soccer. Funny how that works..

      • Reality

        Although we’ll probably never know all the behind the scenes action in these extended negotiations, it is probably safe to say that in any interpersonal interactions, the personalities who are involved can make or break progress. We know that the previous USWNTPA lawyer’s “strategies” were non-productive. I’m really curious about who is the mysterious new lawyer for the PA. I would suspect that the new player reps are also making a difference. It would be wonderful if an equitable agreement could be reached to the general satisfaction of all parties so that future planning can be effectively accomplished for the USWNT, the players and the NWSL.

        • rkmid71

          I was quite pleased to see the min. salary doubled for NWSL players. I was a bit surprised that was announced before a new CBA. I had thought that maybe the USSF was contributing towards the increased cap (i.e. not coming from increased revenues from a new TV deal) perhaps at some expense or “savings” from the what the USSF Is paying allocated players…I’m assuming the allocation structure will continue for now, but hopefully much more scope to bring in players to camp to compete for spots..

          • Reality

            The increase in NWSL salary was indeed welcome although it is still remains a paltry amount. This upcoming TV deal was probably factored in the calculation of the new salary scale…


            The allocation structure will be an influential variable in the CBA for the NT players and the NWSL teams especially taking into account the future expansion of the teams. If there are more teams, then presumably there will be more allocations which implies more room for new NT players.

            However, the bottom line still remains that each NWSL team must effectively market themselves to expand a loyal fandom.

        • Steglitz49

          What we know is that the USWNTPA lost its bargaining chips when they bombed in Brasilia. Their first Olympics without a medal.

          USWNT had its worst ever year. Never have they done so badly since they won the 1991 world championship. Worst ever in 25 years and more.

      • Breakers fan

        To you and Reality I would say that yes, it’s true to some extent that the personalities of the player reps at the actual negotiating table has an effect on how the negotiations go. Read: Press is naturally not as combative as Carly, and is probably more able to work things out in a peaceful, give and take, articulate way, but I also think it should be put out there that a significant amount of time has passed since the last negotiations, time to alter their approach.

        Meaning: As an entire group they have had, since the last trio of player reps stepped back, a good amount of time to all sit down, that group included – Lloyd, Morgan and Rapinoe,- with this new lawyer to discuss further what they seek to obtain. Possibly re-thinking their entire vision, and that may have been based to some extent on things the USSF said to them in the first talks. They’ve almost for sure changed some things, just generally refined their vision. A somewhat new and different set of goals may be in place – ones determined by them as a group – not just out of the head of Sauerbrunn, Press and who else? Klingenberg? — and it may be those new ideas, coupled with the personalities of the current player reps AND that of the new legal counsel that is combining to create this progress.

    • Guest

      AKA she’s a pushover. Get a clue. They removed all of the strong personalities and replaced them with nodding bobbleheads like Meghan Klingenberg and Press.

      • rkmid71

        “They” being the other players in the USWNTPA. If what Lloyd says is true, those were the 3 that stepped up and they were voted in. Lloyd stepped back. Rapinoe still not fit enough to play let alone negotiate. Solo self destructed. Morgan’s off to France — though I never thought she was that enthusiastic about the strategy anyway. They removed themselves by their performance on and off the field. Their strategy failed. Who’s the bobblehead?

  • HOFCToDi

    Sunil Gulati addresses the USWNTPA:

    “Which one of you goes by the name Press. Tell me and I’ll spare the rest of you.”

    “Are you having fun Pressie Pooh?”

  • sandrae gunter

    A&E and Lifetime Covers 83% of the country… If marketed Properly it could be great for the league. 2007 MLS was on ASX TV. How many people Know or had ASX TV? and look where they are now

    • Bruce

      Waiting to see if those channels are the ones that will carry games. It’s entirely possible that they will be carried on LMN, FYI or History Channel en Espanol.

    • Som Termanni

      MLS was on HDnet, which is now branded AXS (not ASX). It wasn’t the only top-division sport on HDnet, which also showed NHL and NASCAR. And by 2006 it had already sold rights to ESPN/FOX/Univision for $18-23M/year, a deal that wouldn’t have happened if MLS hadn’t had YoY ratings growth on three years of HDnet (which continued airing games after that deal as well). ESPN screwed up the presentation in the first two seasons, and MLS had WNBA-level ratings.

      But those ratings for the WNBA were still 2-4x what they were in two years of Lifetime, with no other changes to presentation. Lifetime kept running reality content about the league for two years with little success.

      Meanwhile, ratings for WUSA on PAX, which had 80% reach/83M households, dropped to 1/4 what they were on TNT’s 81% reach. PAX put WUSA head-to-head against MLS, splitting what little soccer audience there was back then, and also had no functional cross-promotion strategy.

      Non-traditional networks _that don’t carry any other sports_ don’t work for sports content unless there’s a larger sports-anchored relationship driving cross promotion.

      NBC does it every time they run the Olympics and throw content across stuff like Bravo and Oxygen, and an NBCSN/Bravo/Oxygen deal would’ve been a non-traditional deal to get far more hype about.

      NWSL on Lifetime is going to be better for the league than YouTube (obviously), but only marginally better than WUSA on PAX (disastrous) and worse than WNBA on Lifetime (mediocre)–Lifetime is less likely to screw up programming, but the NWSL won’t have the cross-promotional support that WNBA got from the NBA.

      Sports need to be on a sports network. Multiple leagues, including a professional women’s soccer league, have proven this out before. A Lifetime deal for crumbs that negatively affects streaming and doesn’t appreciably increase TV exposure over even the shtty FS1 deals among soccer fans is not something to get excited about.

      The best-case scenario is that it does just not-badly enough on Lifetime, a network with better reach and bigger female demographics than ESPN or FS1, to turn the rights around in 2 years to ESPN2, just like the WNBA did. That’s it. That’s history, repeated, and if we get even that much it’ll be a win.

      But we wouldn’t need to deal with this crap if USSF would bundle the goddamned rights properly.

      • Steglitz49

        If USSF bundled them, maybe no network would bother.

        FIFA bundles the ladies WC with the men’s but the networks simply pay and in some countries make some money on the distaff side.