For those of you who thought professional sports labor disputes were as American and apple pie I would advise you to look north. The CFL is proving that disputes between owners and athletes knows no borders. While the dynamics are a bit different in the CFL the issues are the same.
Salary caps and revenue sharing are the main issues at play.
On Wednesday the league offered a $5-million salary cap (up from $4.8 million initially) and boosts the average stipend to $96,000 (up from $92,917). It also called for signing bonuses of $5,000 for veterans and $1,500 for rookies.
The players' offer called for a $5.8-million cap -- with a $4.8 million minimum -- that increased three per cent annually. That's down from the original demand of a $6.24-million cap and $5.84-million minimum. The annual increase is at odds with the owners who initially wanted just an increase of slightly less than one percent annually.
The other big issue is the revenue sharing. Initially the players wanted 55% of the broadcast money and a good chunk of the apparel. Now they are just requesting a "Revenue Protection Clause".
This will fixed cap for at least two years but after the second, if league revenues increased by more than $12 million the two sides would renegotiate the cap or the CBA would be terminated at season's end. The league's proposal stated if its revenues increased by $27 million or more in the third year, it would renegotiate the cap with the players.
There is a lot of other nuance regarding practice time and stipends but those two issues are the reasons why the CFL might strike.
Three Bulls are already taking part in rookie practices.
Drew Willy is considered a veteran but has been allowed to participate in the rookie camp as the Bombers new pivot quarterback. He has maintained that if there is a strike he will of course back the Union but noted that "if there was something to happen I'd make sure we were getting the guys together in Winnipeg making sure we were getting our work in," The 30th starting QB in Winnipeg over the last 24 years went on to say "obviously not in the building, but somewhere around Winnipeg".
Along with Willy Natey Adjei, and Willie Moseley are already taking part in CFL rookie camps this week. Willy's statement makes it sound like if there is a strike then those players may be out and about their respective cities practicing without their coaches.
Normally in these situations I find my self ambivalent towards both sides. But the CFL is different. Most CFL players make between 40, and 80 thousand a year. That's hardly "big money", and it's certainly low enough that the 1% annual cap raise in the league's initial offer was a joke. It's hard to see where the players are in the wrong here. They want a "minimum cap" which is equal to the leagues "maximum" offering. They want a chance in two years to re-evaluate that cap if the television revenue greatly increases, and they want one padded practice per week during the season.
Here is hoping the league comes around and this gets settled in time for some summer football.