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UptownRadio is produced by Columbia Radio News, staffed by the students of the Advanced Radio Workshop of the Columbia University Journalism School. The program is a one-hour weekly magazine modeled on NPR’s All Things Considered. It has been webcast live each week from February through May each year since 1996. It is the Journalism School’s oldest continuous webcast. UptownRadio is on the web live each Friday at 4 pm, and contains summaries of the latest news, interviews and in-depth reports on the full gamut of topics of public interest in New York City and the world.

With up to 18 reporters covering the city, national and international beats, UptownRadio offers original journalism and high quality radio production comparable to that heard on the best public radio stations. The UptownRadio newsroom is directed by Professor John Dinges, a former managing editor and editorial director of National Public Radio. Reporting and production is supervised by adjunct professors Rick Karr and Kerry Donahue, both of whom have wide experience in the NPR system.

Further information about Columbia’s radio program can be found by emailing John Dinges at jcd35[at]columbia.edu.

 

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Major League Soccer and the Players Union Settle Upon New Deal That Raises Minimum Salary

Originally Published March 13, 2015

Host 1: This year’s Major League Soccer season almost didn’t start.

Host 2: Last week, players threatened to strike over their contract. They finally reached an agreement with the league just two days before the season’s opener last Friday.

Host 1: And while the new agreement increases players salaries, Charlotte Gibson reports that some still question whether the league will survive.

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About a quarter of MLS players earned less than $50,000 playing soccer last season. About half earned less than $100,000.

Players say that makes them the lowest paid professional athletes in North American team sports.

Some players said they didn’t mind starting at the league’s minimum wage of $36,500 because they loved the sport.

Davis Paul felt that way when he started playing for the Chicago Fire in 2011.

Paul: From my experience it wasn’t ideal for living super comfortably, you weren’t necessarily living in like a penthouse in a top floor in Chicago, but it was a sacrifice that you had to make in the hopes that you were going to make it big. (00:21)

Other players have left the sport because of the salaries.

Demitrius Omphroy earned the minimum wage when he played for Toronto FC. He says he got by because he had roommates and worked during the off-season. After a while, that was too much effort.

Omphroy: You know I love soccer but I am better off going back to school. We were super underpaid and like it almost made more sense to go back to school and finish out your degree because your most likely going to get paid a higher paying job. (00:12)

Players say the league’s salaries are low because of its unique business structure. Most players actually work for the league not the teams they play for and the league owns a majority interest in every one of its teams and sets the salaries for almost all of its players. Teams can pay as much as they want to so-called designated players the big name European players like NYCFC’s David Villa and American stars like Seattle’s Clint Dempsey, but the league limits most teams to having no more than three.

Soccer writer Charles Boem says that makes the structure pretty unpopular among players.

Boem: You have a strict salary cap and there’s a lot of limitations for what you can do because the league is the final arbiter rather than the clubs themselves. (00:06)

The league and the Players Union hadn’t agreed on a new contract by the time the old one expired at the end of last year.

Two and a half months later, they still hadn’t. Just a week before the season was supposed to start, union representatives voted overwhelmingly for a strike.

But mood shifted and twenty-four hours later, player representatives voted in favor of a tentative agreement which guaranteed the season would start on time two days later, according to Boem and ESPN FC.

But the 12-7 vote was proof according to Boem that a lot of players might still be unhappy.

Boem: The players improved their lot but they didn’t necessarily get an ideal contract and that made some significant concessions and there has been some grumbling. (00:09).

The five year deal allows players to become free agents but its conditions make only 10 percent of the league’s players eligible.

The contract also increases the league’s minimum salary by nearly two thirds to $60,000 a year.

But that’s not good enough, according to Patrick McCabe. He’s an agent who represents more than 70 MLS players. Even with these imporvements, he thinks that it is not enough for the league to hold on to players who know their careers aren’t going to be long anyway.

With this new deal on the table, the biggest question for the league right now is if they can keep and acquire talented players in the U.S.

McCabe: The best thing about the CBA was that it was just a five-year term so we can have another chance to get a crack at this in five years and hopefully really make some improvements from the players, some real improvements. There’s still a lot to be done and to be fought for. (00:16)

MLS players are expected to ratify the deal but the vote has not been scheduled yet. The deal will last until the 2019 season.

Charlotte Gibson, Columbia Radio News.

New York City Football Club Kicks Off Inaugural Season

Originally Published February 27, 2015

Host 1: In just over a week, the New York City Football Club will take to the field for their first competitive match in Major League Soccer.

Host 2: Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees, two of the most valuable athletic franchises, acquired the new team in May 2013 for 100 million dollars. Charlotte Gibson reports.

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Two years ago, two of the biggest names in sports came together to form an American soccer team: the New York City Football Club.

Manchester City is the majority owner of the Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise team and the current reigning champion of the English Premiere League. The team got interested in American soccer after overspending and attracting top players in the 2011-2012 financial year, losing over 137 million dollars. The team owners violated the European’s soccer’s governing body’s Financial Fair Play rules designed to keep soccer teams from spending more than they earn in pursuit of winning.

Sean Maslin, Editor of MLS Multiplex, the Major League Soccer news and opinion site, says that due to Manchester City’s history, their money and ownership won’t be enough to prove their interest in the American soccer league.

Maslin: When Manchester City ends up coming in, they have to be able to prove themselves that they are interested in the American soccer products. That they are interested in developing this league and that this isn’t just another team for them to store players and hide salaries. (00:15:24)

NYCFC must compete for the loyalty and attention of sports fan in the New York area. There are 10 other professional major sports teams in the New York market, including MLS veteran the New York Red Bulls.

But, the team will have some help with the backing of the New York Yankees, the most valuable professional baseball team with a net worth of $2.5 billion dollars.

Maslin: Specifically with the Yankee background and the way the Yankee ownership understand the city, I think we should give them a little bit of credit and let’s see what they can do. (00:10:00)

The soccer team will also have to compete for the attention of soccer fans who follow other leagues around the world, like Manchester City who is apart of the English Premiere League.

However, many U.S. Manchester City fans remain unsure about NYCFC’s ability to be a standout soccer team. Loyal Manchester City fan and Alabama native, Christopher Aiden, feels that NYCFC will not have the depth on the field to go far in MLS season. Aiden has been following the English Premiere team now for almost 10 years.

Aiden: I know some people out there will say that they are backed by Yankees money and Manchester city money so they should be able to win the cup their first year, but I don’t think that’s the case, I think it will just be a generic expansion team season where they will make a push for the playoffs and if they go deep, they go deep. (00:19:00)

NYCFC players have been practicing for the last two years in anticipation for their first MLS season. The team is expected to play its first game against Orlando City Soccer Club on March 8,that is if the MLS players do not carry out their threat to strike in an effort to increase their salaries and become free agents.

Charlotte Gibson, Columbia Radio News.