MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that MLS stands to suffer almost a $1 billion reduction in revenue for the 2020 season, and that he doubts MLS could suffer a repeat of 2020, though he hopes 2021 will be better.
Speaking at his annual State of the League address ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup final between hosts Columbus Crew SC and the defending champion Seattle Sounders FC, Garber touched on a variety of topics, but expressed gratitude that the league has been able to complete its season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“If I told our owners back in April, all our staffs, all our players, that we would have completed a season with 324 games, while being faced with an unprecedented health crisis, they would have enthusiastically signed up for that deal,” said Garber.
He also said he felt insulted that MLS isn’t given more credit for what it has achieved as a league in its 25 seasons in existence.
“When I see us being left out of the narrative of the things that are going on in the professional sports landscape, it insults me. It doesn’t just frustrate me,” he said.
That said, the economic challenges remain immense. In addition to the revenue reduction, the league also incurred unexpected expenses due to the MLS is Back Tournament, charter flights to games, as well as COVID-19 testing.
“The impact of all this is probably deeper than what we expected. That is concerning to us,” said Garber. “But our owners have been understanding this impact from the very beginning. We are concerned about what this will look like in 2021, and are working on how we can manage through that.
“I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a way better year than 2020, because I don’t think any business could sustain the kind of impact that we sustained in 2020 for two years in a row.”
Garber said that the league is still aiming to begin the 2021 season in early-to-mid March. That is due to the fact that the league can’t afford wait until there is certainty about when fans will be able to return to stadiums. There is also the 2021 international calendar to consider, one in which competitions like the CONCACAF Nations League, the Olympic Games, and World Cup qualifying will be contested.play
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When MLS renegotiated the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLS Players’ Association last June, it inserted a force majeure clause that would allow either side to cancel the agreement and return to the bargaining table if adverse economic conditions take place. Garber said that invoking the clause would happen long before the league would determine if and when fans can return to stadiums.
Garber was also questioned about the situation surrounding the league’s three Canadian teams, all of which were forced to play outside their home markets for extended stretches due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada. The commissioner said he was unsure how it would work out, but optimistic the league would be able to navigate the situation.
“I’ve been impressed with how the Canadian government has managed through the pandemic,” he said. “I just read very positive news about vaccine accessibility and availability in Canada. So let’s hope that they’re able to get through it quickly. And we can play our games in our home markets and teams can then travel back and forth no different than the other MLS clubs south of the border.
“We’re certainly hopeful that we’re going to be able to play in our home markets [in Canada], but it’s too early to make a guess on that.”
The commissioner touched on a pair of ownership issues involving Orlando City and Real Salt Lake. Garber said that in light of owner Flavio Augusto da Silva’s public comments about selling his stake in the former, discussions about a sale are ongoing, but there is presently no news to report.
Garber was more expansive about the situation in RSL, where owner Dell Loy Hansen has been forced to sell Utah Soccer Holdings following the disclosure of a toxic workplace culture that included racist and sexist comments. Garber said the league will likely take over the sales process “in the next 30 days,” and that there are “no plans whatsoever” to move the team.
He added that the investigation into RSL’s workplace culture has been completed and that the results will be announced sometime after MLS Cup.
Source by www.espn.com