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  • AFL, union nearing agreement for changes in CBA, Policy says

    The Arena Football League and the AFL Players Association may have an agreement in principle to make changes to their collective-bargaining agreement in the next few weeks, AFL acting Commissioner Ed Policy said last week.

    The agreement being negotiated is not an entirely new CBA but a revised one, which takes into account the economic conditions that caused the AFL owners to vote in December to suspend operations for the 2009 AFL season, Policy said.

    “I think we are weeks away from some sort of agreement in principle to revise the current CBA,” Policy said. Policy said the two sides were working on a plan “that would allow the league not only to survive but to thrive.”

    When an employer claims economic hardship, the union for the employees can try to force the employer to open its financial books. But that has not happened in these talks, Policy said.

    “We haven’t gone down the road of claiming economic hardship,” he said. “We have been very up front with them. And they have agreed to hold off on any challenges they may have.”

    Richard Berthelsen, who acts as interim executive director of the AFLPA as well as interim executive director of the NFLPA, said last week that when the AFL owners voted to suspend the season, the AFL “was also interested in seeing if a deal could be worked out in the near term with the players association for a possible resumption of play in 2010.”

    When an employer suspends operations, the employer has the obligation to notify the union.

    The suspension of AFL operations “is an unusual situation, one that is unprecedented in modern team sports,” Berthelsen said. “But the union has as its first responsibility and priority to try to save as many jobs as it can. That is what the union, at this point, is trying to do.”

    Asked whether the AFLPA could challenge the league’s decision to shut down, Berthelsen said, “There could be various challenges that could be pursued, but they are on hold pending negotiations about a resolution.”

    Policy described the mood of the bargaining sessions as collaborative and cordial. “There is not a lot of saber rattling. Right now we are at the table with our collective sleeves rolled up,” he said.

    Policy, Columbus Destroyers managing board member Jim Renacci, Los Angeles Avengers owner Casey Wasserman, and Dallas Desperados COO Shy Anderson are representing the owners at the table. Berthelsen, outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and several AFL players are on the other side.

    Defensive back Vontae
    Davis, a potential first-
    rounder, will be repped
    by Todd France.

    Kessler, in an e-mail, said, “The AFLPA has been working diligently with the league to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement which will allow the AFL to come back strong in 2010, but also be fair to the players as partners in the league’s future success.”

    IMG, CAA TO CO-REP STAFFORD?: Sources say that Tom Condon of CAA Sports was close last week to signing a deal to represent Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, projected by some NFL draft analysts to be the No. 1 overall pick. Condon would represent Stafford in team contract negotiations.

    Meanwhile, IMG marketing agent Alan Zucker has confirmed that he has signed Stafford for off-the-field work. “Matthew is an athlete of enormous talent and unlimited potential and we are very pleased to add him to the list of great athletes we represent,” said Zucker, IMG senior vice president of talent marketing.

    Condon left IMG for CAA in 2006. He and Zucker share representation of a number of clients, including Peyton and Eli Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson.

    FRANCE SIGNS PLAYERS: Atlanta-based NFL player agent Todd France has signed projected NFL first-rounder Vontae Davis, a defensive back out of Illinois.

    France also has signed Rutgers safety Courtney Greene, Northern Illinois defensive back Larry English, Maryland defensive back Kevin Barnes, Rutgers wide receiver Kenny Britt, Oklahoma safety Nick Harris and Southern Miss linebacker Gerald McRath.

    Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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