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January 28, 2008 2:48 PM

WNBA and Players Association reach deal

Posted by Jayda Evans

The WNBA and Players Association (WNBPA) announced the signing of a six-year collective-bargaining agreement today. What's next for the Storm is detailed a little here. One of the key pieces vaguely mentioned is that there will be revenue sharing -- essential since the league sold its broadcasting rights to ESPN for the first time in its 11-year history. In the past, the WNBA required teams to purchase air-time for a minimum of six games and national broadcasts were often part of NBA deals, but the WNBA didn't receive any money. There will also be salary increases, but we'll have to do some legwork to see if that's substantial or a quarter in the coffee cup. I definitely wouldn't expect it to be enough so mid-level players wouldn't have to play overseas to supplement their income. The WNBA isn't there, yet.

Here is the press release sent by the league:

NEW YORK, Jan. 28, 2008 -- The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced today that they have entered into a new collective bargaining agreement covering six seasons, commencing with the 2008 season and continuing through 2013.

"We are delighted that the CBA is completed and that the players and the WNBA can focus on growing the league's popularity and business model," said Pam Wheeler, Director of Operations, WNBA Players Association. "This is a landmark agreement for our players with important precedents that will enhance salaries, free agency opportunities, and quality of life issues for every segment of our player population."

"We're extremely pleased to have long term stability and to emerge from this process with a unified outlook among ownership and players," said league President Donna Orender. "The new collective bargaining agreement, coupled with our new television deal and increased activation on the part of our sponsors provides further affirmation regarding the growth, popularity and quality of our game."

The announcement follows a successful 2007 season in which the WNBA set attendance records for the Playoffs (216,863 fans attending 21 games) and Finals (74,178 fans over five games) and saw regular season attendance increase by 2 percent. Similarly, viewership of the WNBA Playoffs on ESPN2 delivered an aggregate 15 percent increase year-to-year vs. 2006 while average viewership of the WNBA Finals increased by 12 percent. The 2007 campaign also was highlighted by a new eight-year television agreement with ESPN, which extends the league's relationship with the network to 20 seasons.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, player salaries are guaranteed to increase each year league-wide, and the individual minimum and maximum player salaries will also continue to grow. In addition, the new agreement, like the expired CBA, includes a revenue sharing component should league revenues hit agreed upon benchmarks.

The new agreement also includes adjustments to the free agency system that will increase player movement -- specifically, the number of players that each team may designate as core players decreases from two to one beginning in 2009. When a team designates a player as a core player, the team receives exclusive negotiating rights to that player in exchange for an offer of a fully guaranteed, one-year contract at the maximum salary.

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