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Mar 26, 2020

Ep 24: USWNT lawsuit, U.S. Soccer’s PR Failure explained: UCLA Law Professor Steven Bank

UCLA Law Professor, Steven Bank, joins SoccerWire Resident Analyst, Charles Boehm, for a heavy look into U.S. Soccer’s legal battles on Episode 24 of The SoccerWire Podcast. Bank shares his thoughts on where U.S. Soccer failed with their public relations, what a USWNT equal pay lawsuit settlement really means, and why ongoing legal issues may force U.S. Soccer to restructure completely.

Show Notes

[2:12] Charles asks Professor Bank if he’s tired of fielding soccer related legal questions right now & Bank shares how he’s been kept busy with teachings on soccer law.

[3:47] Professor Bank shares how he became involved with soccer – playing most of his life – and how he is coaching AYSO soccer, refereeing, has a child playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy plus he shares his early law coverings – including the David Beckham tax law, fifa corruptions + an MLS potential players strike.

[6:57] Detailing the current U.S. Soccer litigations plus how they became a mature entity too quickly and are not fully ready due to pressure from outside sources such as FIFA. Professor bank explains how this brings on on much more fighting over the money when organizations reach mature stage

[10:05] Professor Bank explains that the U.S. Soccer market has reached a stage where the revenue is worth fighting over and explains how several current cases – NASL, Relevant Sports – existed before the money was there to fight over, now there are higher stakes 

[12:18] A break down of the U.S. Soccer Federation vs U.S. Soccer Foundation case

[14:00] Professor Bank explains the ‘10,000 foot view’ that U.S. Soccer is fighting to figure out what it can and can’t control – across the several active lawsuits.

[16:00]Breaking down the USWNT equal pay lawsuit and explaing that U.S. Soccer is used to winning legal cases and not used to a public relations battle (Professor Bank explains that they’re not very good at it). He shares what he believes was the U.S. Soccer mindset going in that they spend more on women’s soccer than any other country in the world, bargained with the union, and the women are getting paid a large amount plus discussing how U.S. Soccer didn’t keep up with the times by having the same outside counsel for years and years.

[19:15] Professor bank shares where he think the USWNT vs U.S. Soccer case went awry explaining that everything now is electronically available which led to much more pr than ever before,.

[20:30] Explaining the various arguments that U.S. Soccer has against the USWNT including that there is a fundamental difference between the men and women national teams, that a collective bargaining is not a defense (can’t just say well they agreed to it), and that the USWNT has never been clear that in 2016 we want to eliminate guaranteed salaries as it still needed those to help subsidize league pay

[23:50] Professor  Bank explains that a standard in the equal pay act is that the jobs have to be equal – equivalent skill responsibilities – and that U.S. Soccer could argue that these are different. He shares some case examples where women have lost on these arguments and explains that this is a tough case for the USWNT and that U.S. Soccer could win.

[27:13] Laying out the path for settlement – Professor Banks says that this case should have always settled and believes the judge thinks both parties should settle based on both arguments being questionable. He also shares that in 2016 the USWNT knew their arugment was strong in court of public opinion they made a calculated pr move to get ahead.

[29:23] Explaing why the USWNT cannot settle for the $67 million it is asking for as this could essentially bankrupt U.S. Soccer and adversely affect the USWNT based on the potential cuts to funding of the USYNT program and Development Academy – a pr nightmare for the USWNT but U.S. Soccer hasn’t been able to make this case yet

[30:43] An example breaking down World Cup prize money: France’s MNT win resulted in less than 25% of the prize money getting paid out to players with the rest going to the France Federation vs the USWNT receiving a collective 75% payout from the total prize money with very little money going back to federation for investment. 

[33:11] Further explanation that generally people don’t understand the allocation of World Cup prize money and examples of what other countries are doing for money allocation, plus the differing needs of the USWNT vs the USMNT. 

[38:31] Professor Bank shares the unintended consequence that could happen: U.S. Soccer saying it will pool together the money received from FIFA and dividing it. What would have happened in 2018/19 is the women would have subsidized the men.

[41:35] Detailing where the U.S. Soccer Federation goes now and that the real problem with the federation is they’ve never had enough money to pay for a general counsel to pay for the number/stakes of the lawsuits it is in. U.S. Soccer needs a complete rethink of the organization going forward if they’re going to play in the big leagues otherwise they’re going to keep having these problems unless they restructure – maybe even turning the presidency into a paid position.

[44:09] The positive is there is now recognition that there needs to be a broader view from U.S. Soccer