AFLPU's Soto - "We Are Close To A Deal"
As crazy as it sounds, that whole one-day work stoppage thing might have actually been the key to saving the rest of the 2012 season for the Arena Football League. Four days after the Cleveland Gladiators didn't show up to play against the Pittsburgh Power, causing the first forfeit in the league's 25-year history, the first truly good news came out of the labor dispute between the AFL and the AFLPU. AFLPU Executive Director Ivan Soto stated in an e-mail on Wednesday morning that, "… the AFLPU feels that we are close to a deal." This is in response to the most recent Arena Football League Open Letter, which drew up the latest proposal that the AFL has sent to the players.
There are most certainly some issues to be worked out, but ArenaFan.com has heard from multiple sources that this offer from the league is one that can be the framework of a deal actually getting done, perhaps by the end of the day on Wednesday.
Since the AFL is going to try to put its spin on its offer and the AFLPU is going to try to put its spin on its offer, I'm here to try my best to give the neutral perspective and what it looks like in actuality is happening.
We'll start with wages. Right now, it is no surprise that the players of the AFL are making $400 per game, plus a $50 bonus to players that are on the winning team. Reserve players are making $200 per game, and starting quarterbacks are getting a bonus of $1,275 per game.
According to the open letter to the fans of the league, the league is offering a 25% increase in pay this year and a 106% increase in pay with advancements in pay in each of the next six years, a deal that would carry the league through 2019. According to Soto, this is a monetary increase that the players are willing to accept, at least for 2012, as long as there is back pay.
But let's look at the facts of this. The players would be making $500 per week instead of $400, and there would not be a $50 win bonus associated with that. If you're a full-time player on the Arizona Rattlers, through Week 14, you would have gone from a total pay of $5,700 ($400 per game, or $5,200 total + $50 win bonus X 10 wins, or $500) to a total pay of $6,500. If you're a full-time player on the Orlando Predators, you'd be going from $4,850 to $6,000. Obviously, the range of increase varies depending upon how good of a team you're on.
The newest proposal by the league calls for a $25 increase in pay each year for the next seven years. That puts the pay rates for the next several years as follows…
2013: $825/game ($14,850 annual salary)
2014: $850/game ($15,300 annual salary)
2015: $875/game ($15,750 annual salary)
2016: $900/game ($16,200 annual salary)
2017: $925/game ($16,650 annual salary)
2018: $950/game ($17,100 annual salary)
2019: $975/game ($17,550 annual salary)
The increase in pay comes with a clause that the teams will no longer provide housing for its players. The teams will have to make renting housing an option, but if players exercise that option, it will cost them whatever the monthly rent happens to be. This is a fantastic clause for players that live locally, as they won't be forced into housing with the team and can save the money for rent if they already live with their families or in their own housing that they utilize during the offseason.
Also agreed upon already is the fact that the league will pay for travel expenses to get traded players from one city to the next. Soto recognizes that there is still plenty of verbiage to be worked out in a full CBA, but that it is a clause that the players are happy to see in the newest offer from the league.
To counter the added pay, the number of active players will go from 21 down to 19, and the number of inactive players will go from three to six. Inactive players would go from $200 per week to $250 per week for the rest of this year. According to Spokane Shock Majority Owner and CEO, Brady Nelson, taxi squad wages will go up to $500 per week for the 2013 season. There is no longer a starting quarterback bonus. The cost per week right now for the teams for player salaries is $10,800. That includes 21 players making $400 per game, a quarterback getting an extra $1,275, the average win bonus of $25 per starting player, and three players making $200 per game. Here is the breakdown for player salaries by year…
2012 (Current): $10,800 per game/$194,400 annually (breakdown above)
2012 (New Proposal): $11,000 per game/$198,000 annually (19 players X $500 + 6 players X $250)
2013: $18,675 per game/$336,150 annually (19 players X $825 + 6 players X $500)
2014: $19,150 per game/$344,700 annually (19 players X $850 + 6 players X $500)
2015: $19,625 per game/$353,250 annually (19 players X $875 + 6 players X $500)
2016: $20,100 per game/$361,800 annually (19 players X $900 + 6 players X $500)
2017: $20,575 per game/$370,350 annually (19 players X $925 + 6 players X $500)
2018: $21,050 per game/$378,900 annually (19 players X $950 + 6 players X $500)
2019: $21,525 per game/$387,450 annually (19 players X $975 + 6 players X $500)
Again, we have to remember that players are now going to be responsible for their own housing. Soto claims that the average housing expense is $1,000 per month, but we certainly know that that won't be the case for all players. Obviously, procuring rent in San Jose is a heck of a lot more expensive than rent in a market like Atlanta or San Antonio. To most teams though, this is a big time addition to expense, since in many cases, the teams themselves actually don't pay all that much to house their players, as they exchange advertising and other services for either reduced rent or no rent at all.
One of the other issues on the board at the moment is the injured reserve list. In the NFL, when a player is put on IR, he is out for the season (save for one player that can be activated under the new rules of the league to be implemented this coming season). We have heard from multiple sources that this is not a deal breaker for the AFLPU. Commissioner Jerry B. Kurz reached out to ArenaFan.com on Wednesday morning and confirmed, "The AFL's offer eliminates the 4 week IR status and the only players on IR will be players with season ending injuries--all others will be on the inactive squad till about to return to active status."
The players are searching for a $300 per month stipend (or presumably, addition to salary) for meals. Again, at the present time, teams often barter meals for the players for advertising and other sponsorship benefits. As Soto correctly notes, "Professional athletes can't excel and maintain their overall high level of fitness on pizza and other similar types of meals provided on a day to day basis by the league." The added $300 per month would give the players the option to feed themselves. It would take the expense of meals away from the teams themselves, but again, there is a real question as to how much the league really was paying for meals when they were essentially bartering advertising for those meals for the most part. Soto mentioned that, "The AFLPU will not make meals a deal breaker."
The big issue that is left to work out is arbitration. As I have noted before in articles, Commissioner Kurz has the ability to fine a player for just about anything, and there is no way for the players to fight those fines. In addition, the term "2nd medical" continues to arise. Players want the ability to go to a third party doctor to determine how long they should be out with their injuries, and they also want to be able to go to an arbiter in the event that their teams put them on injured reserve when perhaps they should only be out a matter of "X" number of weeks.
Still, from a financial standpoint, matters seem to be getting a heck of a lot closer. I'm not all that sure that, if I were the players, that I would want to ratify a deal that goes through 2019. If the league does, by chance start to thrive, the players are locked into their salaries for quite some time. Remember that from the 2000 CBA that the league signed, it only took about four or five years before the AFL came into a heck of a lot of money, and salaries started to boom. The AFL and the AFLPA came to a new addition to the CBA to provide more money for the players in the middle of that contract, but there is nothing that says that the league would be willing to negotiate if that is the case again this time around. (May we all be so fortunate to be talking about a "thriving AFL" in 2019!)
However, it bears repeating: This is the best news that we have heard in quite some time about labor disputes. Financially speaking, we seem to be getting a heck of a lot closer, and the AFLPU seems that it is going to be okay with this arrangement as long as the pay of $500 per week goes back through the 2012 season. This is probably the only impasse that remains from a financial standpoint.
Soto is quick to remind us that we aren't quite there yet, as the AFLPU is planning on countering the latest proposal from the league by the end of the day on Wednesday. If this is the case, the possibility is there that we could have labor peace before Friday night's clash between the Orlando Predators and the Tampa Bay Storm. Would the NFL Network rearrange its schedule at that point and put Friday night's game back on live instead of on tape delay? That would be the best case scenario for the league for sure, though it is anyone's guess at the moment whether that is going to be how this plays out.
As always, stay tuned to ArenaFan.com for the latest developments for this, and all of the newsworthy matters around the Arena Football League.