CFL, CFLPA could lower the number of Canadian starters: sources

Both the CFL and CFLPA are in favour of reducing the number of national starters from seven to five after the issue was raised during recent labour negotiations in Toronto, per sources.

While a final decision has yet to be made, there appears to be a consensus on this issue after the first round of negotiations.

Currently, seven of the 24 starters on offence and defence must be nationals, part of the 21 non-imports on the 44-man game day roster. But those numbers might change at the bargaining table.

From the league’s perspective, there are personnel men and coaches who believe there is a lack of depth among Canadian players which makes it difficult to field quality national talent for an entire season. There’s an argument from football executives that increasing the number of international starters could improve the quality of play and potentially help protect quarterbacks.

From the players’ side, there is concern the smaller talent pool has skewed the market for elite Canadians and given those players an economic advantage at the expense of their American counterparts.

Whether that disparity exists is an open question. According to sources, the average salary of a CFL player was around $84,000 in 2018. Excluding quarterbacks, athletes from the United States earned approximately $93,000 and Canadians $80,000. The gap would be wider if quarterbacks salaries were factored into the equation.

Last time the ratio dropped came after the American expansion teams folded and the number of Canadian starters went from 10 to seven.

It remains to be seen how the makeup of rosters will be impacted by the league’s CFL 2.0 strategy which aims to incorporate players from around the globe. That’s to be hammered out at the bargaining table.

While the ratio isn’t a focus for the casual CFL fan, the league’s hardcore supporters are often protective of the rules that support Canadian content. Reducing the number of national content is likely to be controversial in some circles.

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