The CBA: Anatomy of an Announcement

As most everyone in the American soccer community knows, MLS and the Players Union reached an 11th hour deal on a new  Collective Bargaining Agreement soon before an announced strike was set to commence.  While we will discuss the details of the new agreement as the specifics “(including the “re-entry” draft) are revealed, we thought we would take a quick look at the methodology used by the league to announce the deal and examine the mainstream media coverage of the agreement.

Mid-morning on Saturday, word started to leak out that a deal was close, with an AP story hitting a couple of websites.  Soon thereafter, about 10:30 a.m., MLS issued a press e-mail alerting media outlets that a 1:00 conference call would be held and that Commissioner Garber, Union head Bob Foose and mediator George Cohen.  In the next couple of hours, the soccer Twitter world went wild, but details of the deal were pretty well contained.

At 1:00, the conference call started with an announcement that a few additional minutes were needed but that at least 100 media were involved in the call (the actual number was closer to 150).  Finally, at a about ten after 1:00 Commissioner Garber announced the news while providing very limited specifics.  Most of his remarks were devoted to thanking the various participants, but he did lay out the framework of the deal.  Bob Foose followed, and after a couple of statements indicating that the Union got they wanted, he too offered thanks and compliments to all those involved.  The final speaker was the mediator, and Mr. Cohen talked a bit about his theory of mediation and appreciate for the hard work shown by all involved.

After that, the media was permitted to ask questions (13) in all and despite the more than 150 media involved, the questions were asked by the usual suspects.   Grant Wahl, Beau Dure, Steve Goff, Reuters and Jeff Carlisle went first, followed by the AP, Boston Globe, Columbus Dispatch, Philly Inquirer and ESPN (again).  The last three came from AOL, SBJ and Sun Media.  Prior to the Canadian outlet’s question, Landon Donovan offered a few words.

That closed out the call, but the story then went mainstream. CNNSI and ESPN featured the news on their front page, as did the ESPN bottom line.  The front page of the Boston Globe carried the story as did other local and major newspapers and plenty of local television.  Not surprisingly, the blogosphere went crazy with fans weighing in on both sides of the issue but collectively relieved.

Late that night, Red Bull Arena opened with a bang (FSC camera issues notwithstanding) and teams around the league finalized their preseasons in advance of First Kick.  It will be interesting to see whether a spate of sponsorship deals get announced in the wake of the CBA announcement, but the timing of the deal achieved maximum effect for purposes of publicity.  MLS is in the news just days before the start of the season, a publicity windfall, especially since most American sports fans were not aware of the labor issues.