Redblacks' Antoine Pruneau likes chances of deal with CFL
Antoine Pruneau says he’s “75 per cent sure” the CFL Players’ Association can come to an agreement with the CFL on most terms to play a 2020 season.
Sounds great for the league’s teams, players and fans, right?
But the biggest hurdle of all probably comes from an external factor — financial aid from the federal government. After a staggering ask of $150 million in March, the CFL, whose major revenue stream is from attendance, recently held its hand out in hopes of getting $42.5 million to help cover operational and player costs.
A CFL-imposed Friday deadline for getting a deal has come and gone — a Friday call with the league was cancelled — and talks will drag into the next few days. Obviously, time is of the essence if the league hopes to begin an abbreviated season in early September. Players would need to be brought in from across Canada and the U.S., and placed in quarantine. And who knows what happens with the global players, if there are to be any in a 2020 season scenario? The two sides are expected to talk again Monday.
“On our side, we don’t have a timeline. The timeline was proposed by the league,” said Pruneau, a safety with the Ottawa Redblacks and the team’s player rep. “There’s no specific date for us. But we understand that, at some point, we need to get things done.I would say 90 per cent of what we can do without the government help, we have already fixed with the league. There’s still some health stuff we have to keep looking into. Then there are the logistics of bringing American players (to Canada). I think we can figure those things out, it’s been done in other leagues.
“From the financial side, like the league has kept saying, until they secure government help, they cannot discuss salary with us. That’s what’s slowing everything down, for sure. The way I would put it is I’m confident at some point the league and the players are going to agree to something. But I’m a bit scared that it could be dependent on government help. I’m not saying if the government is not helping, there’s zero chance for a season, but clearly it doesn’t look good if they’re not in.”
COVID-19 forced the postponement of the CFL season and may yet lead to its cancellation, but with the recent announcement that Winnipeg had been chosen to serve as the potential hub city, there at least seems to be some optimism that something can get done.
“It’s been frustrating — there’s some stuff we’re still discussing that could have been discussed months ago,” said Pruneau. “Our message to our membership is we have to act like there’s not going to be a season, there’s no certainty. But our members want to play football this year. We have to exhaust every possible option we have before we throw in the towel on the 2020 season. Of course it’s creating anxiety, but we’re going to keep pushing to play.
“The past couple of weeks have been good. Within a couple of days, issues with the health protocols, which were far from acceptable to us, were fixed. So I know they can get a lot of things done fast.”
The CFL and CFLPA have in place a collective bargaining agreement that goes through the 2021 season. The CFL has indicated an interest in revisiting the terms for both 2020 and 2021. Given the circumstances, the players seem willing to bend a bit on this season, but it’s hard to imagine they would give up much of what is contracted for 2021.
“From what I understand, we haven’t discussed anything about 2021,” said Pruneau. “Our guys are satisfied with the CBA that’s already in place. If the league wants to have a 2020 season, let’s make amendments to the CBA. We’re willing to hear their suggestions for 2021, but we’re not going to move from what we have to get a deal done for 2020.”
There’s also not much of an appetite for a fully pro-rated salary. If there was a six-game season, players don’t want to get paid a third of their contracted 2020 salary.
“We know know the league’s in a tough position, but our work is not just during those six weeks, there’s a ton of work done during the off-season (that we don’t get paid for),” said Pruneau. “Obviously we’re not going to get what we want. Guys want to play so much, they may accept a little less than they would in a normal situation. But I think we need more than 33 per cent.”
Even if a deal gets done, expect some players to opt out. Hamilton Tiger-Cats star receiver Brandon Banks has already said he’s not coming if there’s a season.
“There are some guys that have mentioned they won’t play,” said Pruneau. “I’m not sure how much of that is frustration. I think most of the guys would come to play if we get a deal that makes sense. I totally would understand if some guys don’t show up, some of them can afford not to come. I wouldn’t judge that, I’m fine with it. It’ll be a bonus if we can play football this year, then everybody will have a decision to make. I won’t play football for any deal, there needs to be a decent deal in place. But I want to play football real bad right now.”