TAMPA — While nothing on the labor front has been resolved, the player's union and the league appear headed in the right direction as the AFL prepares for its upcoming weekend slate.
The Arena Football League Players Union submitted a counterproposal Thursday in response to the most recent offer by the league. AFLPU executive director Ivan Soto said the two sides are getting closer and he expects the league's response this morning.
"We have sent a counterproposal to the League and are waiting to hear back from them," Soto said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday. "We are not very far apart on the numbers at all, but we do need to get through a few of the nonfinancial issues."
The labor impasse has being ongoing, starting with the season-opening game between Orlando and Pittsburgh that featured mostly replacement players. Cleveland players took part in a work stoppage last Friday that resulted in Pittsburgh being awarded a 2-0 win, the first forfeit in the league's 25-year history.
There had been speculation that tonight's Storm game at Orlando could be affected. But Soto has been encouraged by recent negotiations and said the chances of a work stoppage this weekend are dwindling.
"I would think that the deal is very close so the talk of a lockout or work stoppage and the actual reality of either of them happening this weekend is low," he said.
Tampa Bay is scheduled to play at 8 tonight at Orlando. The game was originally scheduled to be broadcast live on the NFL Network, but the network pulled the plug because of labor uncertainty. The game will air at 3 p.m. Saturday on tape delay.
Storm president Derrick Brooks said he is encouraged the 50th edition of the "War on I-4" will go off without a hitch.
"We are hopeful that the league and the players association can reach a permanent agreement quickly," he said, "one that allows us to focus on growing the game and entertaining our fans for a long time."
Soto said today's response could dictate if or when the AFLPU takes action before the weekend's games.
"We reserve our decision based on how the league responds to our proposal," he said.