CFL Pass

Financial relief finally on the way for Canadian Football League players

In the immediate aftermath of a cancelled season, the onus was on the Canadian Football League to provide answers, and where possible, relief to players, fans and corporate partners.

So it’s good to see that just two days after the decision was made to spike the 2020 season entirely, the CFL and the CFL Players Association have negotiated a “tentative package” of benefits.

Once bargaining between the two sides has been finalized, it should see 441 veteran players under contract become eligible to receive Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy payments retroactive to July and continuing to December or longer if the program is extended.

The program is available to Canadian employers whose businesses have lost significant revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a means of paying a portion of their employees’ wages. As of Aug. 16, the program had approved 840,700 applications and paid out $27.53 billion. The CFL and its teams have been accessing the program since March to pay some non-playing employees.

Most players, on the other hand, haven’t seen a dime since last fall, and the massive financial discrepancy was gnawing away at their patience, not to mention their ability to pay the bills.

The CFL and PA have obviously made it a priority to expedite a benefits package for veterans under contract, and it goes beyond salary.

“They will also have their medical coverage extended until 2021 training camp,” according to a memo from executive director Brian Ramsay that was sent to all CFLPA members on Wednesday.

“Players in the last year of their contract will immediately be able to be released if they so choose, however they will not be entitled to the ongoing medical coverage and we are still negotiating the CEWS payments for those players,” the memo said.

“We are also in the process of negotiating for players with multiple year contracts and opt out provisions for those instances.”

The CFLPA hopes to be able to finalize the package “within the next 24-36 hours,” the memo said.

The Calgary Stampeders have already released linebacker Nate Holley, who is pursuing a job in the National Football League. Other CFLers are sure to follow, though it won’t likely be a major exodus.

NFL teams are currently in training camp, having reduced the maximum roster to 80 players from the previous 90. However, the NFL has also expanded its practice squad maximum to 16 players per team, as a nod to the potential complexities brought about by the pandemic. It might provide room for so-called specialist players — veteran CFL punters, kickers and long-snappers — who could come off the practice squad with short notice to fulfill their unique roles.

“It’s very plausible that an NFL team would keep a guy like that around,” said a CFL agent. “If a guy gets COVID on Friday, they’re going to need a guy to punt or kick on Sunday. Those kinds of guys have the best chance.”

And there may be other jobs available for CFL players willing to opt out of their contracts and the continued medical coverage. The Spring League is planning to run a six-team tournament in a bubble environment in Las Vegas in October. Practices are scheduled to begin Oct. 7 and games start on Oct. 17. CEO Brian Woods said he has already heard from 15 agents, some of them representing CFL players, who have expressed interest in the tournament.

The Spring League plan calls for six teams of 38 players each and assorted staff to stay in one Las Vegas hotel and practice and play at one facility.

Woods also said he hopes to announce a “TV partnership” in the coming weeks. If it comes to fruition, The Spring League would be in position to offer healthier compensation to players.

A CFL agent said Wednesday that one of his clients came to him with some questions about The Spring League.

“If this guy legitimately has a TV contract and is really going to pay players, obviously they would be interested, but I don’t know that for a fact,” the agent said of his other clients. “One of my players heard about it through somebody else, that he is supposedly looking for marquee guys.”

Over the past several months, CFL players took part-time, non-football jobs to make ends meet. But they are football players and they want to get paid to play the game, and the CFL won’t be an option until at least 2021.

“A lot of them haven’t been paid since November, so they’re all mad about that,” said the agent. “They all want to go play somewhere.”

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

Source: winnipegsun.com




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