As Labor Day approaches, United States Football League player reps are hard at work, preparing their case for better working conditions ahead of the spring league season in April.
The reps are scheduled to meet with Fox Sports officials to begin negotiating the league’s first ever collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on Sept. 13-15 in Atlanta. The docket of issues the players want to improve includes housing and compensation (right now, the USFL offers a salary of $4,500 a week for all active players).
Even though the eight teams each represent a different city, the USFL will continue to play all of its games in its host city of Birmingham, Ala. USFL player reps hope to come to a resolution to improve the current living situation, which relies on players to pay for their own housing and hotel expenses once training camp ends.
The move to meet with the league’s corporate overlord comes three months after USFL players voted to unionize through a partnership with United Steelworkers, one of the nation’s largest unions. The United Football Players Association has also been leading efforts. The meeting later this month is likely just the first of multiple sessions before the union and management reach an agreement, but players are hopeful to get a deal struck before the second season begins.
There’s a sense of urgency for the USFL to make these adjustments as a spring football league competitor gets ready for its own reboot this February. The XFL, backed by Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital, may already have stronger leverage to attract free-agent talent over the USFL; it’s expected to offer slightly better active player salaries than current USFL rates, with potentially higher payouts for quarterbacks, not including bonuses and other incentives.
The XFL also has more favorable resources, most notably a wide-ranging partnership with the NFL that aims to create better player development opportunities, with an emphasis on innovation and player safety. Additionally, the league will play regular-season games in eight different venues across the U.S.
The USFL has already taken steps to prevent the XFL from poaching its best players by baking into the two-year contracts (one-year option) that its players are only allowed to be released for the NFL. Players must wait until their deals with the USFL expire before making the leap to the XFL.
The start of the two league seasons sets the stage for an interesting dynamic. Spring leagues have been ill-fated, historically speaking, and there will be a rare opportunity to see both business strategies unfold and gauge whether they can coexist.
In the meantime, both upstart leagues are looking for a capital boost from potential investors. Fox Corp. (NASDAQ: FOXA) is reportedly looking to raise as much $200 million by selling partial equity, while the XFL, which will air on ESPN, is also looking for equity investors with help from PJT Partners.