Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

The Strike that Shook the NASL: A Look Back

When it comes to the history of soccer in America, the NASL (North American Soccer League) holds a special place. Known for its flamboyance, star-studded rosters, and attempts to “Americanize” the beautiful game, the NASL had its fair share of ups and downs. One of the most notable events in its history was the players’ strike in 1979. Let’s take a closer look at what led to the strike and its implications for the league at the time.

nasl average salary

The Issues Behind the NASL Strike

The NASL strike of 1979 was fueled by one main issue: the refusal of NASL owners to recognize the North American Soccer League Players Association (NASLPA). Despite an order from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to recognize the players’ union, the owners insisted on negotiating on a club-by-club basis due to financial disparities among the league’s clubs.

In an attempt to speed up the process of recognition, the NASLPA decided to go on strike. On April 13, 1979, the strike officially commenced, with the players’ union demanding the owners acknowledge their existence. The players believed that a strike would force the owners to come to the bargaining table.

Money Matters: A Comparison with the Current CBA Negotiations

Unlike the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations in Major League Soccer (MLS), the 1979 NASL strike had little to do with wage disparities. While wage disparity was a long-term concern for NASL players, it wasn’t a driving factor behind the strike. The primary aim of the strike was to establish the players’ union and gain recognition from the owners.

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In contrast, the ongoing CBA negotiations in MLS are centered around players’ desires for free agency and higher salaries. Players, like Michael Bradley, have voiced their concerns about MLS players being paid less compared to players in other leagues worldwide.

The Outcome of the NASL Strike

The 1979 NASL strike turned out to be an unmitigated disaster for the players. While some teams saw varying degrees of strike participation, others fielded full-strength squads by filling open roster slots. The lack of solidarity among the players significantly undermined the effectiveness of the strike.

Additionally, the NASLPA’s reliance on foreign players for support backfired when the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) announced that it would not deport foreign players who crossed the picket line. This decision eliminated the NASLPA’s leverage over the league’s marquee players, and the strike swiftly came to an end after only five days.

The Aftermath of the Strike

The NASLPA’s fight didn’t end with the strike. It continued its battle for recognition, and in May 1984, a collective bargaining agreement was finally reached. However, it was too little, too late for the league. The NASL folded that same year, marking the end of an era.

Looking Ahead: MLS and the Legacy of the NASL Strike

While the NASL strike holds historical significance for American soccer, its direct relevance to the current MLS and Players Union negotiations is limited. The reasons behind the NASL’s demise were multifaceted and not solely attributed to the strike. Factors such as over-rapid expansion, lack of infrastructure, and competition from other sports all played a part.

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Today, there are reasons to be cautious and pessimistic about the future of soccer in America, but drawing conclusions based on a short-lived strike from over four decades ago wouldn’t be accurate. The focus should be on the current negotiations and the potential implications for the growth of the sport in the United States.

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FAQs

Q: How long did the NASL strike last?

The NASL strike lasted for five days in April 1979.

Q: How did the NASL owners respond to the strike?

The NASL owners initially refused to recognize the players’ union and insisted on negotiating on a club-by-club basis. They fielded full-strength teams during the strike, undermining the effectiveness of the players’ action.

Q: Did the NASL strike negatively affect the development of the league?

No, the NASL witnessed its highest season attendance average in 1979, the year of the strike. The decline of the league in subsequent years was influenced by multiple factors, such as over-rapid expansion, lack of infrastructure, and competition from other sports.

Q: Did the NASLPA eventually gain recognition?

Yes, after a lengthy legal battle, the NASLPA was eventually recognized, and a collective bargaining agreement was reached in 1984. However, by that time, the NASL had already folded.

Q: What lessons can be learned from the NASL strike?

The NASL strike serves as a reminder of the complexities and challenges faced in professional soccer. It highlights the importance of unity among players and the need for balanced negotiations between the league and the players’ union.

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Conclusion

The NASL strike of 1979 left a lasting impact on the history of American soccer. Despite its relatively short duration, the strike shed light on the players’ struggle for recognition and fair treatment. While the strike is not directly comparable to the current CBA negotiations in MLS, it serves as a reminder of the importance of addressing player concerns and finding common ground for the benefit of the sport’s growth in America.