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MLS commissioner Don Garber: ‘You’ll see more charter travels’ in new CBA

MLS commissioner Don Garber hinted more team charter flights and an earlier start to the season could be coming soon.

Dec 7, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; MLS Commissioner Don Garber delivers the State of the League Address at Westin Peachtree. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL — MLS commissioner Don Garber has hinted that the league’s new collective bargaining agreement will feature more charter flights. 

Speaking at the Montreal Canadian Club on Monday, Garber noted that negotiations with the MLS Players Union were ongoing, but he hinted at his willingness for more charter flights so MLS can “be the league that we want to be going forward.”  He added, though, that a new CBA including charter travel for every game would be unlikely. Teams are currently allowed four total charter flights during the season.

“It is not something that is universally accepted that if you tell the players: ‘I can pay you x more in salary or I can have all teams travel charter’ that they would take the charter over the increased salary,” said Garber. “It’s a balance and it’s a negotiation.”

Garber added that he was aware of the Montreal Impact’s situation when the team was stuck at the Montreal airport for 18 hours and were then forced to travel the day of the game when they faced the New England Revolution. April 24.

“At the end of the day, we and our players union have to negotiate a new agreement that’s going to take increased investment by ownership and reaching with the players on where they want that money spent,” Garber added.

Earlier opening day challenging for Montreal Impact

The MLS commissioner hinted at the league starting its season earlier going forward. Garber added that it adds to the Montreal Impact’s current challenges with the 2019 schedule.

“The schedule is a challenge up here because of the weather,” said Garber “I think that’s only going to get harder as our schedule continues to evolve and we start moving our opening games even earlier in the year.”

The Impact have played 10 of their 13 games on the road this season. For Garber, this might not change if owner Joey Saputo and president Kevin Gilmore can’t do something about it.

“I would love to have a heated field and to have more of a roof and all these things that Joey [Saputo] is going to have to think about, along with Kevin, about whether or not they can manage that investment and how to make that make sense,” Garber said. 

For Gilmore, the issue facing the Impact is the difference in taxation as opposed to American teams. The Impact ownership is taxed on the investment made on the stadium as opposed to being taxed on their revenues.

“It’s not as though the ownership has said that they’re not willing to privately renovation and work,” Gilmore said. “The key issue becomes the taxation structure and how to make sense of an investment when you’re being taxed on that investment. That is at the crux of the issue.” 

Green Card issue: Canadian teams not at disadvantage for Garber

The issue of the green card process has been at the core of all three Canadian MLS teams. Canadian teams go through a longer process than American ones for international players to be recognized as nationals.

For Garber, Canadian teams aren’t disadvantaged. It is for him “something you have to deal with” in a league that crosses borders.

“I don’t believe that any of our Canadian teams are at a disadvantage,” Garber said. “Toronto is the most dominant team we’ve ever had in the history of our league when they won their championship with the immigration and green card rules being what they are.”

Gilmore said the situation is also on the Impact who have not taken the immigration process as seriously.

“There may be an issue here. For example, for us, there are certain players for which we should have started the process years ago and we haven’t,” Gilmore said. “If we had, we probably would have two more [international roster spots]. The process is longer here, but we need to start it sooner.” 

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