Status of the CFL CBA

Does anyone remember the 2004-2005 NHL season. That’s right. It didn’t exist. The players were locked out at the beginning of the season and the end result was a complete year being lost. After the labour disruption, the NHL came back with a rebranded image, new rules, and a couple of guys named Crosby and Ovechkin as their marketing pieces. The result is that five years later, the NHL is stronger than ever. Sure there are some teams in non-traditional hockey markets that are struggling financially, but the league as a whole is doing quite well.

Let’s not think that a labour shortage in the CFL would have such a rosy outcome. At the time of the NHL lockout, the league needed to desperately overall its rule book and make the games more appealing to fans. The CFL does not have that issue. Aside from minor rule changes that are made every year, the three-down brand of football is entertaining to watch and provides fans with plenty of excitement.

The league is currently enjoying unprecedented positive momentum as the current TV deal with TSN has fueled growing interest across the nation in three-down football. The CFL Draft on TSN captured 119,000 viewers on a Sunday morning, nearly three times the amount that tuned in last year. New stadiums are being planned in a variety of markets and last year’s Grey Cup in Calgary was a tremendous success. Revenues are going nowhere but up, so why would the league want to mess with a good thing?

With the current CBA set to expire in just under a month’s time, the possibility of a work stoppage is growing by the day. Although player’s salaries are one of the issues on the table, they are by no means the only matter up for discussion. Changes to the import ratio, which the players are strongly against, and revenue sharing among the teams are also being debated. When the details of each of these issues are examined, the two sides really shouldn’t be that far away from getting a deal done.

The CFL is truly Canada’s game. Failed attempts to bring the brand to US markets were tried once, and hopefully will never be revisited. If the league tries to reduce the number of Canadians on a team, fans could riot. If they decrease the number of required non-import starters, then they would be devaluing the CFL Draft. This one should be left alone. The CFL is also a working man’s game in an era of multi-millionaire athletes as a good number of players often work regular full-time jobs during the off-season. Raising the league’s minimum salary by $1,000 a year is something that the fans would most likely get behind because it’s no less than what an average fan might ask for in their job. Once again, the marginal increases that are being asked for are not unreasonable.

The CFL has not had a labour disruption in 35 years. The last time it happened was in 1974, the players went on strike for 12 days, a new deal was brokered, and the season moved on. History does not need to repeat itself, even if its only for 12 days. The CFL is a great product and the league is on the verge of breaking through to the next level. The decision makers, in the interest of the game, need to figure this one out in a hurry and not unravel all the good that has been done.

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