USL and Team Owners Association Update – Player Contracts and NY Meetings
Last Saturday Inside Minnesota Soccer broke the news that United Soccer League President Tim Holt had sent out emails to all players who were under contract with the Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC Blues and Minnesota Thunder. Holt claimed that those three teams who were also known to be leaders in the Team Owners Association (TOA) had not renewed their franchise fees for the 2010 season. IMS posted a copy of Holt’s letter to the players yesterday.
IMS has now received a copy of the standard United Soccer League (USL) Players Contract. In doing so we consulted with a source who is familiar with contract law who also is aware of USL and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) rules.
The standard USL contract can be seen here and is a 3 page document with additional pages for addendums which would include additions like options, housing, insurance and bonuses amongst other individually agreed upon clauses.
The source, who preferred to remain off the record, stated that if Holt’s letter to the players went to court or even was decided by an arbitrator, it would most likely be well into the 2010 season before a decision was made.
He went onto say that even though section 5 of the contract under Club Obligations seems clear there is still a lot gray area.
Section 5 of the contract is titled Club Obligations and states: Club shall operate a professional soccer team in USL. Should Club fail to operate a professional soccer team within USL, this contract shall be terminated. Further, if the club is operating a team in the USL professional division at the time of the contract’s execution and in a subsequent season commits to a league in the USL amateur division, this contract will be terminated. The termination date shall be recognized as the time the League officially accepts this team’s USL amateur division commitment for the following season.
“If this actually went to trial there would be precedent to look at,” he stated. “Looking at contract law, the fact that an outside body that you pay memberships dues to could nullify a contract that you made with a private actor, I think could go to a venue where there’s a judge and a jury.”
“The clubs pay money to USL to be part of the league,” he said. “They’re using a standard contract with USL for efficiency sake. They (the clubs) are the ones paying the players. I think those compelling reasons would mean that a decision would lean towards the clubs to me.”
When asked about Holt’s email statement that the “U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) has been advised of the same and has also released all Players from their USL Contracts and USSF Registrations” he said: “That’s up to USSF not to Tim Holt and the USL. A decision like that would have to be made at the top level of USSF. Most likely Dan Flynn or perhaps Sunil Gulati would have to make that decision.”
“If you take what the letter says at face value, the league could also transfer a player from Rochester to Portland without any compensation and just say this is how the league is run. Holt stated that the USSF was relieving them of their registration. In that case you could make the same argument that they are moving your registration.”
“In the end the teams are going to take the stance that the players belong to us and I have to believe that a judge, arbitrator or mediator would take that same stance.”
It looks like David Fellerath of Triangle Offense and who’s been doing a great job of covering this situation was working on a similar track today. Check out his outstanding work here.
In late breaking news this afternoon, the News and Observer of Cary, NC is confirming that USSF Officials have left for London, England for the Leaders in Football conference. The publication is quoting Brian Wellman, president of the Carolina RailHawks, as saying things may have “stabilized” with the meetings and that it’s the first time that TOA officials and new USL owners NuRock have sat down at a table together.
“It was the first time the USL leaders, Alec Papadakis and Rob Hoskins — the ownership team of NuRock Soccer Holdings that purchased the USL in late August — and USL president Tim Holt had met with all representatives of the TOA under the same roof,” stated the Cary publication.
“It seemed like at least a lot of the tension has stabilized because everyone finally got to meet face-to-face and everyone knows what everyone’s goals are,” Brian Wellman said.
“I think a lot of positives just came out of a face-to-face meeting as opposed to e-mails, phone calls and things that… communication can get out of context when it’s done over the internet and not the old-fashioned way.”