SAN DIEGO — In order for the Major Indoor Soccer League to survive, the $1.275-million-per-team salary cap will have to be reduced to $850,000, and all guaranteed no-cut, no-trade contracts must be eliminated, Socker players were told by team management in a meeting Thursday.
"It's a serious, serious situation," said Juli Veee, a Socker midfielder. "It was a shock. Everyone died. Nobody was prepared for it."
Speaking off the record, some San Diego players said they have a feeling the league will not survive past this season.
MISL owners will hold a conference call today, and Commissioner Bill Kentling said the league will issue a press release this afternoon that will detail the terms of the new salary-cap proposal.
"There are some ultimatums, what it's going to take for the continuance of the league," said Ron Cady, Socker president. "The whole message is if the league is to continue, this is what has to happen. It's really major."
Player representatives from the 11 teams will hold a conference call Monday, said Kevin Crow, Socker player representative. The Sockers will meet to discuss the situation Tuesday.
"They're (owners) very serious about what they're saying," Crow said. "This was by far the most serious meeting I've been to since I've been in soccer.
"The important thing is everyone is going to have to take a cut. It's a matter of numbers. It's important everyone shares equally in the cuts. Whether you're a secretary, a star player, a coach or you work in the league office. . . . We want everyone to share in the losses."
Crow said he thinks the reduction in the salary cap is just "a temporary solution to bigger problems."
"We need better front offices in some cities," he said. "More importantly, the league office needs to be improved."
The league's state was the primary topic of discussion among the league's board of directors at meetings held at the All-Star Game last week at Tacoma, Wash.
The St. Louis Steamers, once the league's most successful franchise at the gate, is struggling to survive the season.
The Minnesota Strikers will not remain in Minnesota unless a new buyer comes along.
Baltimore was talking about relocating to Cincinnati until it came to a new lease agreement with the city Thursday.
The teams in the major markets--Los Angeles and Chicago--are struggling at the gate. The New York Express folded midway through last season.
Expansion has been put on hold for at least another season. The best national television contract the league could get this season was with FNN/Score, and the network is not available all day in all the MISL cities.
By the end of the three days of meetings, the owners said the collective bargaining agreement--which has been in effect for 1 1/2 years and has another 1 1/2 years to go--needs "substantial revision." At the time, a league source said the cap might be lowered to $1 million next season and $900,000 in 1989-90.
Kentling met with John Kerr, director of the players association, in Washington Wednesday to discuss the salary cap.
"The league is not generating the kind of revenues the clubs need to stay in business," Kerr said. "They need some help from us to stay alive. . . . If the players want to suggest they're not in the mood to make any changes, we'll take that position."
Cady said all contract negotiations with Sockers in the final years of contracts have been put on hold. That affects defenders Crow, Fernando Clavijo and Waad Hirmez and midfielders Hugo Perez, Jacques Ladouceur, Raffaele Ruotolo and Veee.
There also is the matter of whether the players with high salaries will be willing to take pay cuts.
"It's a good idea," Socker defender Gus Mokalis said. "Players have to sit down and talk about it."
Midfielder Branko Segota is to earn about $200,000 next season, and goalkeeper Zoltan Toth $85,000. Goalkeeper Jim Gorsek agreed to a salary of $30,000, $47,000 less than his contract called for, to enable the Sockers to stay below the salary cap. In return, he has a contract of $84,000 for next season, but it was not guaranteed.
Another option for players is to try to play with European outdoor clubs, but that is a long shot for many of the older players who have devoted their careers to indoor soccer.
"There's no chance to try to play in outdoor," Toth said. "After 10 years of indoor soccer, it's hard to start again."
There also is the matter of how much incentive the players will have if they are limited in the amount of money they can earn.
"It's hard to go out and play and do your best when the situation is turning this way," Toth said. "Look at the young players who are playing for better contracts. Without bonuses and extras, it would be an average game."