In a big step for players in the National Women’s Soccer League, non-allocated players announced today that they have formed a Players Association to represent their interests and serve as a unified voice in discussions with teams and the league front office. While this is not a union, it is an important and necessary first step toward future collective bargaining. The announcement came after a constitution and bylaws were ratified by an “overwhelming majority” of non-allocated NWSL players.
[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE] NWSL Non-Allocated Players Announce the Formation of a Players Association pic.twitter.com/ctENUDTtyC— NWSL Players Assoc (@NWSL_PA) May 15, 2017
In the press release announcing the formation of the organization, the group states:
We are proud to announce the official formation of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Players Association. We, the Non-Allocated Players of NWSL, vow to build on the opportunity that has been afforded to us, as well as work to achieve those goals that have not yet been attained. We honor the vision and progress of those who came before us…Pledge to work with the League and Allocated Players to advance continued improvements in women’s soccer…Commit ourselves to doing all in our power for the betterment of our members so that we may best contribute to the common goal: a world-class product on the field, and to be role models and inspire the next generation off the field.
The association is limited to non-allocated players because Federation-subsidized players are separately represented by their own associations. However, they intend to work collaboratively to achieve goals shared by all players.
The group is represented by Meghann Burke of Brazil & Burke, P.A. Burke is former pro goalkeeper, starring collegiately at Saint Louis University before being drafted in 2003 by the original Carolina Courage of WUSA.
While no specific details have been released about player representatives for each team, FC Kansas City's Yael Averbuch told VICE Sports that "each team has two representatives, and I'm a rep for FCKC."
So what can we expect going forward? It is unlikely that the Association will have a significant impact on NWSL this year, since player contracts have already been signed and standards for the year were agreed upon, but this could give players additional leverage when dealing with potential future issues like facilities, hotel conditions, and travel.
We might also get more transparency into the salary cap, much like how the MLS Players Union shares financial data. Finally, the inclusion of amateur players in the Association could give them some much-needed leverage to improve their conditions. Currently such players are prohibited from receiving any compensation for playing except game-day expenses such as parking.
While this is still an early step, it shows that the players have confidence in the long-term viability of NWSL. The huge boost to minimum salaries coming into this year was a major sign of progress for the league, but that was decided unilaterally, and with this association the players are positioning themselves to be central in discussions about how to continue moving the league forward.