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North America USL USL Championship

USL Championship, players reach tentative deal to resume season with no pay cuts

Player Salaries to remain unchanged

MIAMI, Fla.  (June 19, 2020) The USL and its players association reached a tentative agreement on the terms of a return to play this year, in what was described as “three grueling days” of coming to terms on the final agreement. This follows the USL Championship’s previous announcement of its intention to resume play on July 11th with teams playing in their own markets. The agreement only covers the Champonship but not League One.

Financial matters dominated the negotiations, with the big issue being that of players’ salaries, which the league wanted to cut.

On May 9th, the USL, negotiating terms offered by its clubs, asked its players to take a blanket pay cut beyond the first $1,000 or $1,300 they earned per month, depending on whether or not the player was provided housing. The union rejected this outright on the grounds that most players are already not paid well, and asking for a further salary cut was simply a nonstarter for the union. The league also wanted to adjust the end date on players’ contracts. Just over a week later, the players responded with a counterproposal which would have limited player pay cuts to protect the first $2,000 earned monthly, while also looking to establish a minimum player salary starting in 2021 and asking the USL to offer financial relief to its clubs. 

Some financial relief will be provided. USL will split $5.5 million across its 47 teams in the Championship and League One. Other topics such as the implementation of a minimum salary will be an ongoing discussion, however. The league and the players association have yet to agree on its first collective bargaining agreement, and the league wants to keep further negotiations on salaries and club aid to be part of the CBA talks, rather than have it tied to the return-to-play discussions. Those CBA talks are now in their nineteenth month. The USLPA wanted to be sure that talks are accelerated and thus as part of agreement to resume the season, the league and USLPA agreed to restart CBA negotiations in July, with sessions taking place every two weeks until a deal is reached. 

It was agree that player salaries will go entirely unchanged as long as the season in fact resumes as planned. If a team is unable to play in 2020, the club will be obligated to pay their players in full.

The majority of this agreement between the league and its players details the procedures of returning to play in each club’s home market, in accordance with safely protocols amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The idea of simply following MLS and the NWSL and having a tournament in a location such as Tucson or Las Vegas was apparently considered but rejected on concerns of costs and logistics.

The agreement comes in the form of two documents outlining travel and lodging plans, per sources. It is also heavy on testing, as the following summary shows:

Pursuant to the agreement, all COVID-19 testing will be paid for by clubs unless players have their own insurance which covers it. Players will be required to take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests three before resumption of contact training. Once training resumes, players will receive PCR tests every two weeks. PCR and antibody tests will be mandatory three days before any game, including scrimmages. When games resume, PCR tests will administered weekly. 

If a player is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to medical conditions, he will not be required to play in 2020. Players and staff will be expected to continue social distancing practices and be required to wear face masks on team buses. When travelling for away games, teams will request that hotels not provide room cleaning services and instead provide additional toiletries and towels. Food on these trips must be prepared by someone in full PPE. 

The USLPA will have jursidiction to deal with any players who intentionally break safety precautions.

Each player’s contract will have an eight-page addendum attached and incorporated by reference into the contract. The addendum will be a memorandum of understanding of terms. All players and clubs will receive a 41-page document outlining full safety protocol. 

COVER PHOTO: Austin Bold FC forward Promise Isaac, right, celebrates his goal in a game on May 26, 2019. | (Photo: Steven Spillman, Austin American Statesman)

By Ken Russo

My work in the business of soccer applies skills acquired in law practice with a focus on the sport's commercial, communications and sporting components. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage in dialogue on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.

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