Players and owners approve new labour deal

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – National Basketball  Association (NBA) players and owners ratified a new collective  bargaining agreement yesterday, formally ending a five-month  lockout and ensuring the season will start on Christmas Day.

Both sides voted in favor of a 10-year-deal that will allow  a shortened 66-game season to start Dec. 25 with five games.   Free agency and training camps will open today.

“I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the  collective bargaining process and have reached an agreement that  addresses many significant issues that were challenges to our  league,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

David Stern

“This collective bargaining agreement will help us move  toward a better business model, a more competitive league and  better alignment between compensation and performance.”

The NBA season was in jeopardy after talks between the two  sides collapsed in June, triggering the lockout and tit-for-tat  anti-trust legal action.

The pre-season and first six weeks of the NBA’s regular  season, in which teams normally play 82 games, were cancelled  before owners and players agreed last month to a compromise deal  after both sides lost millions of dollars.

The players began voting on the deal Wednesday, even though  some of the final details were not sorted out until just before  Thursday’s vote by owners.

Although the new deal was for 10 years, the league and the  players’ union retained an option to opt out after six years.
Under the terms of the deal, players and owners agreed to a  50-50 split of basketball related income, one of the major  sticking points of the dispute.

The NBA board of governors said the new revenue sharing plan  would quadruple the funds previously shared among NBA teams.

“The board realized that it was imperative that our revenue  sharing program be improved,” Stern said. “We have found a  solution that should provide our league with better competitive  balance.”

The sides also agreed to new tax rates and to set the salary  cap for the 2011-12 season at $58 million.
The maximum length of player contracts was reduced by one  year to five years for a team’s own players, while salaries for  new player contracts may increase by up to 7.5 per cent per  year.

They also reached an agreement to bolster the doping program  with the introduction of offseason testing, increased penalties  for violations involving performance-enhancing drugs, and blood  testing for human growth hormone once a test was validated.

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