Baseball could face lockout if labor talks do not collapse

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Like other people working at MLB teams, PGA pro PGA Tour players would be part of the lockout

Not much could go wrong for the baseball season. The sport still has a best-in-world television deal with its broadcast partners. The sport’s best players and teams are still led by the smartest owners in North America’s two most popular professional sports.

There is only one way this could go wrong, though.

The players’ union and the league could come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement – otherwise known as the “NDA” – during the spring.

But if the sides cannot settle on that, a devastating lockout could occur if the March 1 deadline passes without an agreement.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fighters’ union officials have been due to report to spring training camp but have yet to do so.

It is one thing to lose some baseball games to a strike or lock-out – but instead a near two-month-long work stoppage could get this generation of viewers fuming.

“A lockout is going to get a lot of people irate,” Jason Perry, communications director at the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, told CNN.

“Imagine all the kids tuning into baseball and being forced to watch the Masters.”

The main sticking point in these talks is how much the players’ share of baseball revenues will increase from around 56% to as much as 70%.

The dispute is among many in sports – from the NFL and NBA to the NHL and MLS – to come up with a resolution that brings parity to teams across the country.

Over the last ten years, MLB players’ wages have doubled while teams have posted roughly the same average revenues.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The owners want to increase the players’ share of baseball revenues to 70% in an attempt to balance the finances of teams across the league

But since the league’s revenues have started to grow, the owners want that share to increase to a level where more than half of the league’s revenues will be taken by players.

“We’ve reached a point where the league and union have virtually reached a deal,” Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, told CNN.

“The big issue is really an overall agreement that opens the door for clubs to use some of their revenue sharing money on salaries.”

The players say they will not accept that.

“In a collective bargaining agreement, there’s a process,” Paul Schreiber, a spokesman for the players’ union, told CNN.

“We don’t deal with something immediately, we negotiate something. We’ve come to terms with just about everything, it’s really the ‘win’ that has been elusive.”

It is hard to say how baseball fans would react in the middle of a big sell-out season, but recently polled more than 300 MLB fans from around the country and the majority of them said a lockout would be “inevitable”.

And if that goes ahead, this much is for sure: if an NDA is not settled, the fans will be first in line for the bottom of baseball’s barrel.

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