CFL willing to raise the minimum salary: sources

Photo courtesy: Justin Dunk

The Canadian Football League is willing to raise the minimum salary for players.

According to sources, commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the board of governors are open to boosting the base level compensation rate for athletes from $54,000 to the $70,000 range.

Ambrosie hinted as much at his stop during Randy’s Road Trip in Regina.

“We should find a way over a time with more success to pay our players better. That to my mind is not anything that my governors wouldn’t want us to do. Let’s grow this game so that we can pay our players more. But the way we’re going to be able to pay our players more is if we are more successful,” Ambrosie said.

“The growth in compensation in the NHL hasn’t come just by dumb luck, it has come because the game got bigger, they found access to other revenue streams, they started broadcasting internationally, their merchandise sales grew internationally. It’s a race for talent, in a global market like we’re living in.”

The starting salary in the Alliance of American Football is $70,000 USD, which rises to $80,000 and then $100,000 in the final year of the standard three-year entry contract. The Xtreme Football League is aiming to kick-off in 2020, but potential players earnings haven’t been announced by Vince McMahon or commissioner Oliver Luck.

“Many people have asked me: what do I think about the Alliance of American Football? I don’t know if you know this, but actually they ran the risk of not making pay roll after the first week of their season. And they had to have a cash infusion from the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes (Tom Dundon) – the hockey guy came in and injected $250 million into that league after one week of existence,” Ambrosie said.

“But there is a concern that if the Alliance of American Football got up and running successfully and the XFL was running successfully, it would put some pressure on our access players. So of course we need to grow our game so that we can compete with those leagues to make sure that we get the best players playing here in the Canadian Football League.”

Part of being able to bring the top talent north of the border is financial, especially with the exchange rate and amount of tax Americans have to pay. That compensation rate could be rectified in the new collective bargaining agreement. Discussions between the league and players’ association are supposed to begin in early March.

“We’ve got a CBA that we have to get done and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that it keeps me up at night from time to time. It’s not going to be easy, I want to share a vision with our players – I love our players – but I worry can we get it done? Will there be something that we’re not seeing today that’ll be in the way of getting a deal done, I worry about that,” Ambrosie said.

“But I think you go into it with the best of intentions, you go into it with an honourable desire for a situation that’s fair to both sides and you hope that in the end it’s going to take us to where we want to be.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.