Canadian Premier League raises minimum wage, rejigs salary structure

TORONTO — The Canadian Premier League is rejigging its salary structure and increasing its minimum player salary for next season.

The minimum salary in 2023 will be $30,000, up from $22,000 this season. The league is also separating its player and technical staff salary budget.

This year, teams operated under a "compensation cap" of $1.2 million per club. That total covered player wages, bonuses and housing, as well as coaching and technical staff. The technical cap compensation had to fall between $350,000 and $550,000 for the season, with player compensation between $650,000 and $850,000.

Next season, the total player compensation budget must fall between $750,000 and $1.125 million. To reach the maximum, teams can use the league’s under-21 players incentive program. That provides salary cap relief on the first $200,000 of under-21 player compensation, with only 50 per cent of an under-21 player’s salary counting toward the salary budget cap.

The $100,000 of relief allows clubs to hit the $1.125 million ceiling.

The league says the 2023 player budget include wages, bonuses and housing, as in 2022.

The player maximum this season was in effect $950,000, if $200,000 was spent on U-21 players (providing $100,000 in relief) and only $350,000 was spent on the technical cap.

League rosters must have a minimum of 20 players and a maximum of 23 players, including three under-21 players.

The CPL is not releasing the 2023 minimum and maximum budget amounts for technical staff.

The Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFA Canada), which represents players, said it welcomed the move to increase the CPL salary cap.

"PFA Canada views the league’s decision to increase the salary cap and minimum salary as progress towards the further professionalization of players’ CPL experience," it said in a statement. "However, we remain mindful such arrangements require players’ agreement through collective bargaining in order to maximize mutual benefit, transparency and enforcement."

The association noted that November marks almost three years since the players formed PFA Canada "in order to negotiate improved wages and conditions, resolve disputes and play a meaningful role in the promotion of the league whilst elevating the status of professional footballer so young athletes recognize the viability of a career in the CPL."

"Unfortunately, for the past two seasons, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted PFA Canada’s plans to create a collective bargaining relationship with CPL through voluntary recognition or legal means," it added. "We look forward to doing so in the near future."

The league says the salary changes were recommended by the league office and unanimously approved by the board of governors.

“Building upon our stellar 2022 season, we are pleased to take another important step forward in the development of the Canadian Premier League by announcing increases to our players’ total compensation,” league commissioner Mark Noonan said in a statement.

"These important changes continue to reinforce our mission of creating opportunities for young Canadian players to showcase their talents on home soil and build a league that all who love the beautiful game here in Canada can proudly support," he added.

For comparison's sake, Major League Soccer clubs operated under a US$4.9-million salary budget this season although the league has plenty of mechanisms that allows teams to get more bang for that buck. That includes only counting US$612,500 of a designated player's salary against the cap, no matter how much he makes.

The MLS senior minimum salary is expected to surpass US$100,000 for the first time in league history by 2023.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press