FIFA compliance statements by MLS Players Union shows just how weak its position is

For those of you pounding Pepto tablets at the thought of an MLS work stoppage in 2010, let me put one oft-repeated claim the the fact that MLS’ rules on contracts and salaries violate FIFA rules. Kyle McCarthy, who if he isn’t a lawyer, did a very admirable impression of one when he wrote about whether MLS laws violated FIFA rules. I credit him for his effort but I want to additionally remind folks one critical thing.

MLS’ compliance with FIFA rules does not matter one iota.

Not one bit.


Because we’re dealing with FIFA. It’s tempting to view FIFA as a near-state entity as it relates to the sport of soccer and those that practice it under its umbrella.

And in a way, FIFA is like a state, just not one we’re used to dealing with. FIFA is a dictatorship, like China or North Korea with a very strict and rigid hierarchy that is enforced by the senior executives.

While FIFA has laws, they aren’t enforced like civil or criminal laws. They are enforced according to the whims and prejuduces of its senior leadership. There aren’t independent arbiters or prosecutors attempting to run down deviations from the law independent of FIFA executives. Current FIFA bugaboos include:

  • Government and judicial interference with soccer. Recent interventions and threatened interventions include those with Iraq and Chile. FIFA has made it very clear that it is willing to levy any penalty to any federation that allows undue Government interference in its operation.
  • Technology and soccer. It’s getting more and more fun to watch Blatter lose his grip every time he’s asked about technology and soccer. Whether this is because he is simply a luddite or something more sinister, this is simply not something that can happen as long as Blatter remains in charge.

If your issue doesn’t hit one of this FIFA administration’s hot-buttons, odds are you’re fine.

It is for this reason that people need to relax when it comes to MLS working “around the margins” (and that’s charitable) of the FIFA rules as it comes to contracts, or even the league’s summer calendar. FIFA doesn’t care.

The idea that the MLSPU tried to put across that somehow the fact that MLS contracts aren’t guarenteed would affect the World Cup bids and other USSF interactions with FIFA is simply laughable. FIFA, including Blatter and his cabal, have zero interest in destabilizing MLS and the slowly rising financial engine that is American soccer. I can guarentee you that FIFA will take no action that MLS and the USSF will tell them might destabilize the league. It’s simply not in FIFA’s interest and that’s blatantly obvious to anyone with even the slightest abilty to read the political tea leaves.

There is no stakeholder within FIFA that would ever enforce the contract or season deviations that MLS uses from FIFA laws. They don’t exist. Sure Blatter might run his mouth about MLS moving to a winter season, but Blatter runs his mouth all the time about anything and anything. What matters is action and FIFA has not and will not take any action that might slow the growth of American soccer and MLS.

The sad thing for the MLSPE is that these statements likely expose just how little leverage they have with the owners. It’s not that I am anti-union, because I am not, but any unbiased observer would look at the situation as it stands and say that the owners have the players over a barrel. Statements like those relating to FIFA compliance by the MLSPU, only go to show how weak the players’ position actually is.


2 thoughts on “FIFA compliance statements by MLS Players Union shows just how weak its position is

  1. FIFA doesn’t (and won’t) do anything because FIFA gets it. To paraphrase something I heard recently, if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense. All of this that we love…it’s all a business. It’s easy to keep football-crazed countries in line with hard set rules, but what makes even more sense is to get all of America’s money into the pot to raise the sport to even higher levels. It makes sense to have the league tightly control their interests for the first 20-30 years of theirs existence so they don’t create another NY Cosmos nightmare and turn MLS into a traveling circus.

    Don’t get me wrong – I sincerely hope the players get a few extra dollars out of the exchange, because they deserve it and we’re getting to the point where losing some of these mid-tier guys to Scandinavia for a few years is starting to hurt. I even think that making a (not so small) concession to AEG in taking DP salaries off the cap will help the league gain some respect from players on the fence about coming to MLS. All I’m trying to say is that I understand why everything is so tightly controlled – it’s in the best interested of everyone involved, whether you realize it or not.

  2. Technically, FIFA is an NGO, i.e. a Non-Government Organization. You say it’s a dictatorship like China or North Korea, but it’s actually more like the International Olympic Committee or Greenpeace. At least, that’s what any good political science professor would tell you.

    As for the rest, I think you’re spot on, with one caveat: You claim that no one in FIFA (Blatter included) would ever act in a way that hurts the growth of US Soccer…but I think at some point Blatter will get too old to care about the future, and focus entirely on his cushy, corrupt lifestyle. Under these circumstances, I could see him doing or saying anything. Same goes for that idiot from T&T.

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