Former Chelsea FC star Ashley Cole was in NYC this week as part of the club’s global outreach program. The EPL club has made a year-round grassroots commitment to the FC Harlem Lions; assisting with both their school and athlete engagement programs. On Tuesday, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection joined FC Harlem and Chelsea FC in announcing plans for a new $3.5 million project. Plans include a covered soccer field, a first for grassroots soccer in New York, on DEP property; adjacent to the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant. JWS had the exclusive opportunity to talk with English futbol legend.
JWS: The median MLS player salary during the 2017 season was $135,000. Do any of your teammates have second jobs?
Cole: Maybe they do work 2 jobs which I don’t think is right. They need to be fully concentrated on playing soccer. MLS needs to look at that (league median salary) and increase that, because it is not just about the old veteran guys coming over and getting paid a lot of money; I think if they (MLS) want to improve, pay these lower paid guys a little bit more.
JWS: You left money on the table leaving Europe. Why did you choose to come to play in MLS?
Cole: If you look at my salary compared to others, it’s not as big; but I’m comfortable because I still love to play soccer. It was a time in my career where I was getting older and even though I had other options to stay in Europe, I chose MLS because I wanted to see how it has developed and just to experience it here. I love the fan base here, it’s crazy. It’s getting bigger. It’s something I’ve always kind of had in my plan, to play in the MLS.
JWS: The EPL generates far more money than MLS. Can you discuss some of the disadvantages MLS players have from a resource standpoint?
Cole: When you are traveling 5 hours for a game, plus sitting in the airport for 2 hours and you don’t go on a charter, which players in Europe are kind of used to. Then getting off the plane and training that night; and then playing the next day is difficult. There have been times where I couldn’t play because I’ve had a bad back because we sat in an airport for 3 hours and had a 5-hour flight. It’s difficult for foreign players, we’re not used to that.
JWS: Do you think the U.S. missing the 2018 World Cup will set the sport back in America?
Cole: Hopefully it’s just a phase for this tournament. If you look at the other big countries that didn’t make it, do you say the same about them? I don’t think so. I just think they didn’t play well in the group stages and they got punished. I’ve been on an England team that didn’t make it to a Euro or a World Cup, it’s difficult. They have good young players coming through. MLS is growing. Hopefully they can regroup, get together and don’t think “it’s the end of the world”. Now to push on, improve as players and get ready for the next tournament.
Howie Long-Short: Ashley wasn’t exaggerating when saying, “If you look at my salary compared to others, it’s not as big.” The L.A. Galaxy player earns just $6,700/week playing in MLS; while Kaka receives $144,875/week from Orlando City, Toronto FC is paying Sebastian Giovinco $143,500/week and NYC FC star Andrea Pirlo gets $118,850/week. Cole may not be making a fortune in MLS, but he amassed one during his 20-year career. It’s estimated that his net worth is north of $22 million.
Fan Marino: The MLS Players Association is going to demand chartered flights in the next round of CBA negotiations, but that isn’t until 2020. Until then, there is a competitive advantage to be head for owners willing to invest in their team; just one MLS team had a road record above .500 last season. It’s been estimated that chartering flights would increase team costs by over $1 million/season.
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