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Soccer-Berman promises player-first approach as NWSL commissioner – Metro US

Soccer-Berman promises player-first approach as NWSL commissioner

FILE PHOTO: Jessica Berman of NHL testifies before the Senate
FILE PHOTO: Jessica Berman of NHL testifies before the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation on the subject of domestic violence in professional sports in Washington

(Reuters) – Newly appointed Commissioner Jessica Berman said she would bring a player-first approach to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) as it looks to rebuild trust with athletes and add to the momentum of a landmark collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The former National Lacrosse League and National Hockey League executive will assume the role with the top-flight North American women’s soccer league for a four-year term beginning April 20, taking over from interim CEO Marla Messing.

She takes the reins after allegations of sexual misconduct engulfed the league last year, prompting an overhaul of operations and the departure of former Commissioner Lisa Baird.

“My goal will be to work in support of our players and establish a league that really has a strong relationship with the union and builds on the momentum that’s been established in the last several months,” Berman told reporters on Wednesday.

“I really want to work on having this league and our amazing iconic players set a positive example for the next generation.”

In January, the players association announced it had ratified the first collective bargaining agreement in the league’s history, with highlights including a raising of the minimum salary 160%.

Berman pointed to growing viewership among the signs of strength for the NWSL ahead of its 10th season.

The Washington Spirit’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars in the 2021 championship averaged 525,000 viewers on CBS, up 216% from the 2019 game, which was broadcast by ESPN.

“(There is) very much good reason for everyone to be enthusiastic about the opportunity to grow,” said Berman, who most recently served as deputy commissioner of the National Lacrosse League.

Two expansion franchises – Angel City FC and San Diego Wave – will debut this year.

The players association offered a statement in support of Berman’s appointment, after players were involved in the selection process.

“The Board of Governors has sent a clear message that a strong, mutual relationship with NWSLPA is pivotal to the success of our League,” the union said in a statement.

The NWSL Challenge Cup begins on March 18.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)

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