During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, SportTechie and N3XT Sports are surveying key personnel at major soccer clubs around the world to understand the current state of soccer technology and innovation. (Previous: Ravi Ramineni, Seattle Sounders)
Bob Foose is the executive director of the Major League Soccer Players Association. He has held that position since the association was founded in 2003, over which time the league itself expanded from 10 teams to 23. Before the association was formed, Foose was a transactional attorney in private practice and he has a law degree from Georgetown. During his tenure at the MLSPA, the association has negotiated three different collective bargaining agreements with the league, expanding player rights and compensation.
The MLSPA is the union that represents players in Major League Soccer. Founded in 1993, the MLS is soccer’s highest level in both the United States and Canada. The leadership of the MLSPA is democratically elected by current players. The first CBA signed between the MLSPA and league raised the minimum salary and guaranteed full health insurance for players. Subsequent agreements increased the number of guaranteed contracts, created a re-entry draft, and introduced restricted free agency. Since the association was created, the average compensation paid to players has increased five-fold, from just under $75,000 per player in 2003 to just under $375,000 per player in 2018.
Foose believes the greatest recent technological advancement in soccer has come in wearables and biometric monitoring, which are increasingly used for training on and off the field. But he is also wary of the potential negative impacts those technologies can have for players. “Biometric technologies represent a huge opportunity and a series of potential risks for our players. The potential benefits—health monitoring, training insights, proprietary player data—are all impactful for players on and off the field, but they also raise important questions about player rights and privacy,” he explained.
The continual evolution of technology has meant that Foose and the MLSPA must track innovations and quickly be able to understand and respond to changes. “Developing technologies will continue to impact how the game is played, how it is marketed and its future trajectory. Ensuring that players have a voice in how these technologies are implemented, and share broadly in their potential benefits, are key areas that we’ll continue to focus on as the game evolves.”
According to Foose, “there is real opportunity for our players and the sport as new technologies transform the way the game is played and consumed.” But he believes that players should be centrally involved in how those changes and innovations take place. “The player perspective and player experience are critical elements to much of the innovation we’re seeing, and we’ll continue to work to ensure that players are considered and protected as the game evolves.”