Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arena Players Expected to OK New Deal; Sharks Owner Bouchy Helps Draw Up Collective Bargaining Agreement with Union

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arena Players Expected to OK New Deal; Sharks Owner Bouchy Helps Draw Up Collective Bargaining Agreement with Union

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Although there were no plans by the players to walk out on the Jacksonville Sharks, team owner Jeff Bouchy became an important part of drawing up a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union.

Bouchy and owners from the Tampa Bay, Spokane, New Orleans and Iowa franchises struck a five-year deal over the weekend with the AFLPU that will create a series of pay increases and other benefits over the next seven seasons.

"Essentially, we locked ourselves in a hotel room in Chicago and decided to stay there until we had things worked out," Bouchy said. "I'm totally committed to this league. We didn't have any problems in Jacksonville. Our players want to play football, and we treat them very well. But we had to get something done for the entire league."

Players throughout the league will vote on the new contract, and both sides are expected to sign the deal Wednesday.

"It went down to the wire, but we got it done," AFLPU executive director Ivan F. Soto told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's a very good deal - a fair deal, a big deal, a comprehensive deal. There was give and take on both sides, but the players will be very happy. We are confident we will receive 100 percent approval [from the players]."

The union tried to get players from Pittsburgh and Orlando to walk out hours before their season-opening game in March, but ownership with both teams had replacement players on hand to fill the void. Two weeks ago, the union ordered players from Cleveland to walk out of a home game hours before kickoff. The Arena Football League responded by forcing the team to forfeit the game.

The league threatened a lockout if there wasn't a new contract by Tuesday. That forced Sharks coach Les Moss to send an email to agents last week looking for new players.

"Due to the current labor situation in the Arena Football League, the possibility exists of a lockout in the near future," the email read. "If you have any qualified clients who may be interested in an opportunity to play for the Jacksonville Sharks, please send me their information at your earliest convenience. …

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