The U.S. women's national team and U.S. Soccer remain engaged in talks over a new collective bargaining agreement, and after one meeting with the new player reps and legal representation, the tone of those talks has changed, federation president Sunil Gulati said in a wide-ranging interview with SI's Grant Wahl on the Planet Futbol Podcast.
The U.S. women's player's association moved on from Rich Nichols, who had been representing the players and their interests of securing equal pay to that of the U.S. men, hiring the firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser and naming Becca Roux the interim executive director. The three players at the forefront of the discussions are now Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg.
“We’ve had a couple meetings," Gulati said. "They have new leadership in terms of their legal representation. We’ve had one introductory meeting with that leadership. There are more scheduled for the next few days and subsequent period. The whole discussion has a different dynamic, a different tone. That’s certainly a positive. That greatly reflects the leadership of the team and their views in making a decision they were going to change leadership and who that representative is. In the end, the players are the ones who set that tone.”
With the equal pay discussion being a complex one given a number of factors that differ on the men's and women's side, Gulati says that what he is hoping to achieve is an "equitable agreement," one that is fair for both sides based on those variables.
“I always use the term ‘equitable pay.’ What is fair. And I have no doubt we’ll come to an equitable agreement with the players. There are so many differences in the agreements now in some of the benefits that the women’s players get and some of the benefits the men’s players get. There are differences in revenues. All of that will be part of the discussion. The men don’t have guaranteed contracts year-round. The women do. And it’s for a very important set of reasons.”
Elsewhere on the women's soccer front, the NWSL just signed a three-year broadcast TV deal with A+E Networks and Lifetime (with A+E Networks purchasing a stake in the league), which will increase the exposure on the growing league. Gulati sees this as a difference maker in terms of getting the league more commercial viability and greater exposure than the handful of games that have been televised in the past few seasons.
“It’s a huge positive, because it gives the league exposure that it’s never had," Gulati said. "This is 20-plus games every year … In the last three hours, I’ve had a couple emails of commercial entities which are interested now in talking to the league. You’re treated much more seriously when that happens.”
Listen to the full interview with Gulati in the podcast above and subscribe to Wahl's weekly interviews via iTunes here.