The National Lacrosse League (NLL) and Professional Lacrosse Players Association (PLPA) are back at the negotiation table again, trying to iron out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The two sides will meet over the 2012 All-Star Weekend, and if they cannot come to terms on their differences, will send the case to an arbitrator in April.
The NLL and PLPA signed a long-term, seven-year deal to start the ‘08 season – with a clause for either side to opt-out after the fifth year. That opt-out date has now passed, with the two sides presenting their case to an arbitrator back in October of 2011. But the PLPA and NLL have since decided to negotiate their disagreements internally.
“The Player Association and the league agreed to essentially ask the arbitrator to hold-off on any decision, as well as post-pone the opt-out date, which was supposed to be November 1, to give the parties some time to resolve our differences. That’s the period we’re in now,” says George Daniel, NLL Commissioner.
“We’re scheduled to get together at some point during the All-Star Weekend. We’ll look to go over the CBA and some other issues. If we don’t (find a resolution), the case will go back to the arbitrator in April and a decision will be rendered.”
Back in ‘07, the league cancelled its ‘08 season, but one week later reached a deal – their fourth CBA in just seven years. Under the current agreement, player salaries increase annually 5% to 6%. (5% for veteran max and franchise player salaries, 6% for rookie, second-year and veteran minimums.)
“I think given the point of the economy over the last few years, it is a concern,” adds Daniel, of the salary increases. “I think six percent growth in this economy is a little bit aggressive. I won’t say it is the only issue, but it certainly is an issue going forward that we’d like to talk about.”
In 2012, rookie salaries are $9,200 and second-year minimums are $12,420. Veterans have a minimum of $13,678 and max of $27,177. A franchise player’s salary is $33,971.
How large of a chunk is that in a team’s operating budget?
“Salaries alone are probably in the 25% range. But that, in and of itself, doesn’t tell the whole story,” adds Daniel, noting there is also payroll tax burden and missed worked compensation. “Some of our franchises pay over six figures in worker’s compensation insurance.”
Plus there are travel and accommodation costs, with many players flying in for away and home games. And there is bonus pay on top of regular player salaries, for performance and promotional pay.
“The cost of doing business that is tied to players is significantly higher than just player salaries. It could represent 25% to 40% (of a franchise’s expenses) depending on a team’s operations,” says Daniel. “When you talk about all player related expenses, it could be 50% or more.”
Even the Buffalo Bandits franchise, the league’s top drawing team with a great arena deal thanks to its NHL ties, is not immune to player costs, this off-season making roster moves in part to meet their own salary restrictions.
“We have a lot of veterans making 20-some thousand dollars a year. If you bring in two rookie players for the front door, that saves you $14,000 a player,” says Bandits coach and GM Darris Kilgour.
The Minnesota Swarm this year signed eight rookies to their roster. While owner John Arlotta says the primary driving force was to get better and win, noting they haven’t had a winning record under his ownership yet and felt the need to be more athletic, he admits salaries come into play, too.
“Do you take into consideration financials? While everybody does, on every team,” says Arlotta.
Arena, traveling and marketing costs are the other major expenses associated with franchise operating costs.
For more interesting comments from Arlotta on NLL franchises, click here.
“I’m optimistic that everyone has the best of intentions,” adds Daniel. “We will see if we can resolve this issue and come to a meeting of the minds.”
Daniel would not expand on whether the league is looking to reduce player salaries, like the NFL and NBA pushed for in their recent CBA negotiations. The PLPA declined comment at this time.
Besides negotiating the details of a new CBA, Daniel is concerned about its enforcement and being able to properly review contracts.
“The principal dispute is over the league’s ability to review promotional agreements. If we don’t have regulation over it, we essentially have an uncapped system,” says Daniel, saying his authority is currently being undermined by the PLPA. “Our fear is, if I’m not allowed to regulate the contracts, which is in our by-laws, then we do have an uncapped system.”
“It’s not a matter of any one franchise pushing the limits,” responds Daniel. “We just want to have a regulated system. That’s what we agreed to. We need cost certainty.”
“We’ll talk, and I’d like to be positive and optimistic that we’ll sit down with the players and engage in fruitful discussions. Hopefully we can reach an accord that we can all live with,” concludes Daniel.
Stay tuned to IL Indoor for more on the CBA and other NLL ‘Business Time’ stories.An All-America at Simon Fraser and a decorated Jr. A player for Coquitlam, Kojima began covering lacrosse in 2003 and started working for Inside Lacrosse in 2007. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.laxfuj.com.
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