Posts Tagged ‘Russell Teibert MLS’

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VANCOUVER, B.C – The life of a professional football player is often spent in airports traveling to and from matches in cramped conditions. While NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB teams on the road are whisked from their comfortable charter seats to hotels. MLS players are often left squished in economy and wondering if they’ll make it to their destination city at all.

It’s not uncommon for MLS teams to experience long layovers, delays, and cancelled flights. It’s all a part of travelling across a continent as big as North America. MLS players say that not having charters can have a negative affect on the overall health, rest, and recovery. Arrival in a new city can often occur in the wee hours of the morning.

Players are jet-legged, their body clocks aren’t able to adjust, they are not in the best position to go out and succeed on the pitch on matchday. The probability of making mistakes, injuries, and overall fatigue, rises when players are jet-lagged.

MLS goalkeeper, Zach MacMath, is in his first season with Whitecaps FC. The long distances that Vancouver frequently has to travel has come as an unpleasant shock to him.

“This is the first year, I’ve dealt with so many connecting flights out of Vancouver,” MacMath said. “I think it’s very important for the league to grow, and up the standard of play. It’s not something that I think is going to happen quickly. It’ll take time, and obviously a lot of money to make happen.” 

“I think if we could get to eight next year, and continue to build from there. You get four, but that’s a discretionary for each team. Not every team uses all four flights each year.”

MLS players want more charters, and they want them included in the next CBA negotiations. Vancouver Whitecap FC recently completed a three match stretch in the span if nine days. Vancouver played away to Chicago on April 12, home to LAFC on April 17, and across the continent to Orlando, Florida for a match on April 20.

The Philadelphia Union played away to the LA Galaxy on April 13, flew home and played Montreal, on April 20, and then flew out to Vancouver to play Whitecaps FC on April 27.

Neither Vancouver, or Philadelphia took a charter flight.

Philadelphia Union captain, Alejandro Bedoya, spoke to Har Journalist post-match in Vancouver on Saturday.

“Oh my gosh, the obvious answer is charter flights,” Bedoya said. “You look at the way we got here (Vancouver). We flew out of Philly, with a connecting flight in Chicago. We had to wait, sitting on a United airplane. I think they’ve got to have the smallest leg room in economy. It’s just so tight. We land at around eleven at night. We get to the hotel at midnight, which is three in the morning, Philly time, and eat dinner. It’s just ridiculous. It’s absurd.”

Each MLS team is permitted four charter flights each season. If Philadelphia had traveled to and from Vancouver on a charter. That would have counted as two seperate charter flights.

“That’s the obvious answer, charter flights,” Bedoya reiterated. “They need to put their money, where their mouth is. I’ll never forget about the article Robert Kraft had in Sports Illustrated about why he bought the (New England) Patriots a second plane. He’s talking about player safety, health, recovery. Here in MLS, we’re not there yet. We better be there, the CBA is up, and that’s going to be a strong talking point.”

Whitecaps FC’s, Russell Teibert, has spent his entire MLS career playing on the west coast in Vancouver. He has been on many lengthy road trips. He is adamant that more charter flights need to included in the next CBA negations.

The current CBA expires on January 31, 2020.

“The CBA is coming up,” Teibert explained. “That’s going to be something our players union is going to have to discuss. That’s something we need to discuss as a union going forward. All the teams need to be on the same page with that.”

“That’s something that I’m sure is going to be a focal point for our next CBA. I don’t think it’s something that we can address right now, because we’re stuck with the old CBA.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting what’s fair for the players, owners, teams, and organizations.”

The biggest reason why MLS doesn’t use more charter flights, is down to cost. It has been estimated that it would cost $20 million per year for the league, and roughly $1 million per team. The cost of flying an entire team on a charter flight, plus the price of fuel can quickly add up. Each flight could cost a team upwards of $150,000 per charter.

“The way we need to figure it out, is if we get better flights,” Whitecaps FC’s, Jake Nerwinski said. “We’re working with the league right now, to work on more charter flights.”

“It would make a huge difference. Going on two commercial flights is very difficult for guys, to be sitting in small leg room. It’s something that you have to get use to throughout the year.”

Whitecaps FC MLSPA union representative, Zac MacMath, wants more charter flights, and a much smoother process.

“It just makes the whole process a lot easier,” MacMath explained. “More guys in this league are use to the difficulties of travel, but it just makes life easier. It gets more recovery time, and more mobility to be more prepared for games.”

If cost is a concern, there is always the idea of sharing a charter. MLS teams don’t require a charter each time they travel. Cascadia clubs, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland could share a charter. You could also have teams like the LA Galaxy, LAFC, and San Jose Earthquakes share a charter. The same could be said for teams in the midwest, south, and east coast.

“That could be a solution definitely,” Bedoya agreed. “I’m not calling for every flight to be a charter. There are flights on the east coast, or west coast that are just over an hour or two flight. You don’t need to fly a charter then. I think cross country, especially with a midweek game. There should be no doubt about it. I don’t care what anybody says.”

“Like you said, if you split them like that. Cascadia teams, and maybe the teams on the east coast. The New York teams for example. That could be an option. If you look at NBA teams they go on a west coast trip. I would have preferred that. Maybe our wives would be upset with us, but trust me. It would have been a lot better for us to play the game in LA. Stay in LA, and then have the scheduling in Vancouver the following weekend. That would have been a better solution.”

If revenues, and MLS expansion fees are as high as $200 million. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be more money for charter flights. A potential thirty-team league should not have tired players criss-crossing all over North America on commercial flights. It hurts the end product on the pitch. This is a league wide issue that has no legroom left.

NOTES: The MLSPA could not be reached for comment. MLS did not provide comment at the time of publication.

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