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Arena League Owners, Union Come to Terms

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Arena Football League owners and the Arena Football League Players Organizing Committee have negotiated a six-year Basic Agreement that lets players become free agents sooner while giving the owners a salary cap.

Los Angeles Avenger owner Casey Wasserman, chairman of the owners’ negotiating committee, said the negotiations--which began in mid-April--were concluded Thursday night. League owners will vote on the package Monday; the players will begin voting on the package next week.

If ratified, the deal for the players would:

* Reduce free agent eligibility from eight years to four years, which would affect an estimated 143 players for the 2001 season;

* Expand medical benefits to include medical, dental and long-term disability coverage;

* Raise the average player’s salary and win bonuses from $25,000 to $35,000, along with increasing the average team payroll from $540,000 to $700,000.

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In exchange, the players agreed to the owners’ wish for a salary cap, which will be $1.375 million per team for next season. The cap includes player salaries, win bonuses, player health and insurance coverage and a player housing allowance.

“We started from different viewpoints of what the deal should look like, but reached a common ground,” Wasserman said. “It solidifies the partnership between players and owners to take this league to the next level.”

Victor Hall, a seven-year Arena veteran and the Avengers’ player representative, called the agreement “fair for both sides.” He said he will urge his teammates to vote affirmatively.

“We had a players meeting, discussed it, and will vote on it Monday when we return,” Hall said from Buffalo, N.Y., where the Avengers were playing the Destroyers Friday night. “But I like it, and the other player reps I talked to also like it. And we will be able to go back and negotiate things as other situations arise.”

The swiftness of the agreement is surprising, considering the 2000 season--the Arena league’s 14th--was nearly canceled after a group of players filed an antitrust suit against the owners in February over free agency and league contracts. The suit is pending.

Arena owners said they would not seek a court settlement but would negotiate with a recognized player union. The AFLPOC was formed in March and negotiated an interim agreement with the owners. That agreement would be replaced by the six-year deal if ratified.


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