US Soccer's Take: Sean Wheelock Goes 1 on 1 w/ Jim
US Soccer's Take: Sean Wheelock Goes 1 on 1 w/ Jim Moorehouse to Discuss Team USA LockoutThe U.S. Soccer Federation's Jim Moorehouse discusses the other side of the USA lockout MLS Wrap cohost Sean D. Wheelock writes about American soccer every Thursday on FoxSportsWorld.Com. By Sean Wheelock Posted on FoxSportsWorld.Com - Two weeks ago in this column I interviewed Mark Levinstein the Acting Executive Director and Outside General Council for the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association about the current labor dispute that threatens to disrupt America's bid for a fifth consecutive appearance in the World Cup. The other party in this highly contentious and polarizing issue is of course the United States Soccer Federation. I spoke to their Director of Communications Jim Moorhouse. Sean Wheelock: What is the current status of the negotiations between the United States Soccer Federation and the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association? Jim Moorhouse: As of January 5 U.S. Soccer has proposed binding arbitration to resolve the current labor dispute with the Players Association. Should the Players Association accept the arbitration offer by a January 10th deadline then we would immediately call the U.S. National Team into training camp in preparation for the team's opening game in Trinidad (February 9). If the offer of arbitration is rejected then plans would remain in place for a selection of alternate players to participate in that game should a collective bargaining agreement not be reached by February 1. SW: How will the proposed arbitration process work? JM: It calls for each party to submit one final proposal. Following those submissions the arbitrator would then select a single proposal in its entirety. SW: If both sides agree to the arbitration would the ruling be absolutely final and put into place? JM: Yes. Once both sides agree to the arbitration an arbitrator would select how we're going to move forward with the collective bargaining agreement. SW: Is proposing arbitration a concession by the Federation? JM: We feel that the surest path to resolving the labor dispute would be arbitration. Assuming that the Players Association believes its bargaining stance we can't really conceive of any reason why they would not wholeheartedly embrace this proposal of arbitration. We are confident that our offer is a strong one that's good for the players and good for the sport long-term. It's good for all of our millions of members who benefit from our programs. SW: How does the Federation's proposal differ fundamentally from that of the Players Association? JM: We have offered a very fair proposal that we think responsibly supports the development of the sport. And it also offers the Players Association $14.4 million. That's a 38% increase over the $10.4 million that they were paid from 1999 through 2002. SW: Is that figure of $14.4 million guaranteed during this World Cup cycle? JM: That $14.4 million is based on the same results of the 1999 to 2002 window. If you had the same types of results in the 2003 to 2006 window then we would pay them $14.4 million. But keep in mind that we are deeply committed to paying for performance. We think that is a win-win for the players and the sport. SW: What happens if the U.S. National Team were to exceed the results of 1999 to 2002 in this new time period? JM: The figure would definitely be higher. The point here is that the Players Association's current offer based on the 1999 to 2002 results would pay out $21.8 million. That's a 108% increase. SW: What is your response to the Players Association's claim that the Federation has a current surplus of $30 million? JM: It's worth noting that we are a national governing body for the sport of soccer. We're not a professional sports league. We're not a professional sports team. We are a not-for-profit 501c3 company and all of the money that we accrue goes directly back into the game. Four years ago U.S. Soccer was really 18 months away from bankruptcy. We had a $4 million deficit. After four years of hard work to build revenues and through some extensive cost-cutting in every area of the organization except player development we're strong enough now to support our seven Board mandated initiatives that we had in place to build the sport of soccer: player facility coaching referee event and staff development and to enhance the quality of environment for our National Teams which includes things such as flying charters. At the core of our ability to fund the growth of the sport is this $30 million reserve that we've earned over the last four years. SW: How was the $30 million accrued? JM: By trimming operating cost by $8 million which includes a staff reduction from 112 to 69. In the Summer of 2001 we had the first fee increase in 17 years at U.S. Soccer from 50 cents to $1. That helped build an $8 million surplus to pay for basic services. The proceeds from International games staged in the U.S. have contributed $4 million to that surplus. And there was a Board mandated requirement to accrue $9 million for emergency funding. It's important to note that the Men's National Team's contribution in terms of revenue is less than $1.1 million across the four years of 1999 to 2002 after expenditures. SW: The Players Association has used the term lock-out to describe the current situation while the Federation has called it a strike. Is this just a matter of semantics? JM: On December 13th when they refused to participate in a camp which they were notified of then they are on strike. SW: If for whatever reason this situation has not been resolved by the time of the United States' first match of the Final Round of World Cup Qualification on February 9th is there the possibility of a forfeit? JM: We will field a team for all of our scheduled qualifying games because that is something that we have to do. Otherwise we put not only this World Cup but the next World Cup in jeopardy. SW: If the Players Association accepts arbitration by the January 10th deadline is this labor dispute over? JM: If they agree this is a resolution.