BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
We are less than a month away from the opening day of CFL training camps. While the talk should be about the draft, the rosters and the hype around who will be the contenders for the 2019 Grey Cup, instead we are talking about the games being played in the boardroom.
The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is set to expire before camp begins and if you believe all the headlines it seems less and less likely that the season will start on time.
Any sports league is built on the relationship between the league, players and fans. Without the cooperation of any one of the parties involved a league will crumble to pieces.
Right now, it doesn’t look good as the CFL and the CFLPA have called off negotiations until April 29th. This will give three short weeks for the two parties to come to an agreement.
While we would like to talk football, here is a little primer of what is to come over the next month.
There are only a handful of names that will pop up over the next few weeks. Most you should already know:
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On the CFLPA side, the man that has been front and centre is Senior Advisor Ken Georgetti, Executive Director Brian Ramsey, CFLPA President Jeff Keeping as well as the player reps including CFLPA Vice-Presidents Solomon Elimimian and Rolly Lumbala.
What has changed since the last CBA negotiations in 2014?
Well, not much.
In 2014, the CFL was welcoming the Ottawa Redblacks (back) into the league for their inaugural season, a new stadium was unveiled in Winnipeg and new Mosaic Stadium was breaking ground.
As per CFLdb.ca the average attendance in 2013 was 27,005 or 74.29% of capacity. In 2018, the average attendance was 23,955 or 75.46% of capacity.
2014 was the first year of the current TSN television contract that is worth about $40-million per season.
So, the pie is about the same, but the question is, how big is the pie?
Unlike other leagues where you can easily find information on total league revenues, the only numbers we find are anecdotal.
The closest we can find is from a January 18 article by 3DownNation where Drew Edwards breaks down the numbers from a tweet by TSN’s Dave Naylor.
In summary, during Grey Cup week in Ottawa in 2017, Randy Ambrosie said he wanted to double the CFL’s total revenue from $210-million to $420-million.
The $210-million was one of the first times anyone had heard that number or any number that was attached to league revenues. The article is a great one and scathing towards the league and highlights just how small the percentage of revenue the players receive.
This gets us to the chips that both sides have already played leading up to these negotiations.
The league was ready to fight early on.
The first step was to announce that the league advised teams to not pay off-season bonuses until the new CBA was signed. Players see this as the league trying to ‘starve’ the players to sign an agreement.
There were complaints from the players side about the amount spent on the operations side for coaches and management.
In early December of last year, the league implemented a non-player football operations cap. It’s set at $2.5-million and caps the number of coaches to 11 and other operations staff to 14.
The latest ploy by the league was to step away from the negotiating table earlier this month to take care of other league matters.
The Players Association started telling its members not to take part in any team mandated community functions.
Then in the past few weeks they have advised players not to report to training camp until an agreement has been signed and then a notice went out to all players that a strike vote will be conducted this week (both courtesy of 3DownNation.com).
So what does each side want?
If you are the league you want the status quo when it comes to salaries, pension and other player compensation.
The league would want to get rid of the one year contracts that have turned the off-season into free agent-palooza.
They would also like to implement the pieces needed to start commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s plan to take the CFL international.
They also want better injury compensation. Not just for current players but also when their careers are over.
While things currently look dark, there is still enough time to get things done before camp opens. If not, we could see training camp and the pre-season games being the first to go.
If things go incredibly bad, regular season games would be eliminated and the league would slip out of whatever summer spotlight the CFL currently enjoys. To have this happen, it would be catastrophic for the league. A lot of fans will walk away and never come back, spending their hard earned dollars elsewhere. This would in turn mean jobs lost in offices across the CFL.
We know the league is ready to fight and it’s starting to look like the players are more unified than ever before.
It feels like dark times and we can only hope that the people at the negotiating table can put together a deal that is beneficial for all involved.