CFL Pass

TERRY JONES: CFL gets its CBA act together just in time, predictably

It’ll be business as usual for the Canadian Football League.

When ratified, the CFL salary cap will go up one per cent.

One. Un. Uno. Eins. Ett. En.

In other words? No change.

The salary cap will continue to increase by $50,000 over each year of the new three-year contract.

One per cent. Whoop de doo.

The minimum salary goes up 20 per cent to $65,000.

That’s semi-significant. But in two different directions.

It’s about time. But time out.

A league minimum of $65,000 is progress. But it will mean veterans will have to take pay cuts next year.

The players can’t be jumping up and down yelling: ‘We won! We won! We won!’

And the league can’t be particularly proud about it either.

It advertises the fact the league, despite some of the optics involving initiatives by commissioner Randy Ambrosie, really isn’t any healthier today than before.

The good news is that there will be no change in the import/non-import situation. That one could have chased away a significant number of fans that love the Canadiana aspect attached to the league and is very visible during Grey Cup week.

Anyway, it’s over until they do it all over again in three tears.

History has taught CFL fans not to get their shorts in a knot about the potential for a strike.

Relax. Ignore all the proceedings. They never get that far.

It played out to the predictable conclusion Tuesday, when it was announced in the morning a deal had been done subject to ratification. Then the details started to leak out.

There are reasons that it always works out this way.

One is that a significant number of American players view the CFL as a temporary place to get a paycheque and a place to play in their attempt to get to the NFL.

Another is that with bonus money withheld and no payday until the season starts, the live-from-paycheque-to-paycheque CFL player can’t really afford to withdraw his services. He has bills to pay and often a family to raise.

At the same time, the league usually has a few franchises experiencing trying times and clearly not making any money. One look at the stands in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and every player in the league could figure that out.

The point is the result was entirely predictable, as always. Get to the final few days before training camp and they’d get the deal done.

OK. Once there was a strike once.

That was 45 years ago.

Back in 1974, it was my second full year as the traveling beat reporter, and the teams went to training camp without veterans. The one thing I remember about it was how it opened the door for some Canadian players to showcase themselves and one of them, who almost certainly wouldn’t have made it without the strike, was receiver Stu Lang, who played from 1974-81 with the Eskimos and won five Grey Cup rings.

It was the only players’ strike in league history and was settled before the start of the regular season.

To me, the only question this time around was if the players would try to take negotiations through to this weekend and put next Saturday’s pre-season game between the B.C. Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium in jeopardy.

What would have made that interesting are the different Labour laws in Alberta and B.C. The Eskimos would have had to go to camp for five days before they could strike while the Lions could pull the plug immediately.

Obviously, it didn’t get there.

But at least they got it done without making the big mistake. There will be no change in the import/non-import situation.

I’ve long believed the most important word in Canadian Football League has been the word Canadian. And one of the items on the negotiating table that was of concern was to reduce the mandatory number of starting Canadians from seven to five.

Not only do I believe that having national and local heroes in the lineup is important but that the teams who work at it and build the best Canadian depth generally finish at the top of the standings.

The easiest way to cut costs would be to reduce that number of mandatory starters because those Canadians command the higher salaries – especially the ones who are considered ‘ratio breakers’ and start at positions normally reserved for skilled Americans.

The cheapest starters are the U.S. rookies who make the teams out of training camp.

Whatever, it didn’t happen. The ratio stays the same.

At least they didn’t open up that hornet nest and give fans a reason to walk away from the league.

Training camps open this weekend. Business as usual.

And by Sunday, everybody involved will be good with that. Life as usual in the CFL.


On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

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