CFLPA cracks on revenue-sharing, offers a fixed cap, CFL reps still reject it and walk out

The fundamental CBA divide on a fixed cap versus one tied to revenues has reportedly been overcome, but that still wasn't enough for the CFL and its players' association to come to a deal after extensive meetings Wednesday and Thursday. The CFLPA proposed a fixed cap (the league's preferred system) for at least two years (longer if league revenues didn't increase by at least $12 million in that time), abandoning their previous insistence on revenue sharing, but their latest cap proposal (a $5.8 million ceiling with a three per cent annual increase, a substantial step below the $6.24 million ceiling the players initially suggested, with a $4.8 million floor, the league's previously-proposed ceiling) was apparently so unacceptable that the CFL representatives at Thursday's meetings walked out, suggesting a strike is coming. There are further issues the sides are divided on beyond money, including independent neurologists and other player-safety proposals and the elimination of option-year deals (but only for veteran players), but the money is still the main issue. It's remarkable that talks have broken down with the sides seemingly so close, but that suggests we may well see at least veteran training camps (set to start Sunday) disrupted, with pre-season and regular-season games potentially affected as well.

If the details that have emerged so far (which are all from the players' side; the CFL will apparently make its own statement later) are accurate, the players and the league don't seem that far off on the money. Going to a flat cap is a huge concession from the CFLPA, as the league has made that its primary target, saying the CFLPA's revenue-tied cap proposal "would threaten the very existence of the CFL" (although revenue-sharing at some percentage obviously wouldn't destroy the league). The players are also now only proposing a salary cap that's $1 million above the league's last public proposal, $1.4 million above what the cap was in 2013. Given that each team is expected to earn $2.7 million more in TV revenue alone under the new deal, that doesn't seem terribly unreasonable.

Moreover, the players' suggestion to open a wider divide between the cap and the floor (a $400,000 gap in 2013, a $350,000 one in 2010, a $1 million gap under the players' new proposal) is a fascinating one. Yes, that could potentially hurt league parity, with rich teams like the Saskatchewan Roughriders (who made a $10.4 million profit in 2013 and have often violated the current soft cap) spending a million more than poor teams like the Toronto Argonauts (who may be in stadium trouble yet again). However, that proposed ceiling is still just 120.8 per cent of the floor, which is way below the gap in any other major North American pro league. The CFLPA proposing the floor at the league's current ceiling is a clever idea, too; the CFL's at least tacitly admitted that its poorest teams could survive under a $4.8 million cap, so the players are saying "Fine, let them do that, and let the rich teams spend more."

Regardless, the CFL doesn't appear to be sold on what the players have brought forward, and with negotiations seemingly concluded for now, that means a strike vote is coming. That vote has been held elsewhere, but can't be held in Alberta until the CBA expires, so veteran players may have to report to camps Sunday as planned. After that, though, it looks like we're getting a labour stoppage unless things drastically change somehow, and that could result in the cancellation or postponement of preseason or regular-season games. The sides do appear to have made some progress in these talks, and it's reassuring that the players have taken a step to break the philosophical divide over a cap system. Still, for the moment at least, labour peace in the CFL still seems a long way off.

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