Friday was the self-imposed deadline day for the CFL to reach an agreement with the CFL Players’ Association on a CBA for a shortened 2020 season.
It looked like both sides had a monumental task ahead of their meetings.
“We are not fine-tuning, there needs to be movement today,” TSN reporter Farhan Lalji told TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa. “Yes there is optimism, yes there is a deal in sight, but no a deal is not done.”
As for whether Friday’s deadline is really anything of the sort, Lalji believes it is, even if the final decision will bleed into next week.
“I really believe the league wants to keep today as a hard and fast deadline because of the conditional moving parts that are needed in order to get a season done,” Lalji said.
The deal would likely be isolated to the 2020 season, with an acknowledgement that further discussions would be needed to iron out the long term impacts of the pandemic.
The CFLPA released a memo to its members stating that they had yet to engage in meaningful discussions around pay, and that an agreement Friday was unlikely do to the lack of clarity from government regarding federal funding — it’s the most contentious issue.
“My understanding is that those financial considerations are probably where the most dialogue was happening in the last 24 hours and some of that is also going to be tied to the government ask because there could be some variance in terms of what the government comes back with,” Lalji said.
“Yes, it might be a loan rather than a grant but how much is it going to be? If [salary] is tied to a percentage of the government ask, they could still be wrangling about that now.”
Salary negotiations have a significant amount of moving parts that have to be accounted for.
“We aren’t just talking about whether or not the money is prorated, it’s also beyond base salary. What are you going to do with report and pass bonuses? What are you going to do with games played and player incentive bonuses during the season? Lali questioned.
“As importantly, how are you going to guarantee salary? I know that’s been a bit of a sticking point because usually by about Week 10, if you are a veteran player, it’s all guaranteed.”
The league has concerns that some players may abuse contractual guarantees in a less than ideal circumstance.
“I know there is a bit of a concern that there are going to be some disgruntled players that might not have an intention of playing but might show up, take the report and pass money, and say ‘see ya’ or if they want to stay in the league, they might stick around for a bit and then get a miraculous injury and say ‘see ya’,” Lalji said.
“Again, I’m not saying that would happen but I know there are some concerns around that given the length of the season.”
The two sides appear closer together on the logistics of a hub city and the health protocols, but monetary concerns will leave some players unwilling to participate. Lalji echoed his colleague Dave Naylor as to what those numbers might look like.
“I think probably one to two players per team may choose to sit this one out. In terms of big names, I think very few [will opt out] because most of the big name players have made a big chunk of their money, the prorated money is still substantial, there is a lot more coming back to them,” Lalji said.
Ultimately, the league could be facing a disappointing outcome.
“This is just a prediction, but my gut says we are going to get a deal done, we are going to get government money and we are still not going to see a CFL game played,” Lalji said.
“I just think there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and none of this is a guarantee we are going to see games.”