Ratio-breaking Canadian Antoine Pruneau recognizes time is ticking down on the CFL potentially playing games this year.
The 30-year-old Ottawa Redblacks players’ association representative believes clarity with regards to a possible shortened season could come in the near future.
“Moving forward the league has mentioned to us that they’re waiting on the response from the government so that we can get deeper in the talks on the financial side. I’m expecting, the way the league has been acting, if that’s what they’re waiting on, I would expect them to have an answer by Friday — there’s no certainty,” Pruneau said on TSN 1200 radio in the nation’s capital.
“We’re going to push as long as we can to get a season going, our players want to play. We don’t want to fix it to a timeline, but of course, there’s going to be a lot of logistics to be worked on. If they give us a new proposal we’re going to have to send it to our membership, and this takes time to get approved. I would expect to have an answer soon.”
That response from the federal level might make or break the ability to put CFL football on the field in 2020. If financial support is provided by the Canadian government, the league and players would have to come together on a COVID-19 collective bargaining agreement. Compensation versus the risk is clearly top of mind for many athletes including Pruneau.
“We would like to have our full contract because the way that things have worked right now. They told us at the beginning they would not pay us because of how our contract is written, they didn’t have to. And they also said they didn’t have the funds to do it,” Pruneau said.
“They didn’t change the form of our contracts at that time, so now that they need to change it for the season to get going, they are making the necessary moves and talks to get it done. It’s frustrating, but we understand the league’s situation.”
The CFL offered the union pro-rated base salary pay of 33 percent which included on-field performance bonuses for a six-game season. The union membership was surveyed by the CFL Players’ Association, and according to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk, over 85 percent of players responded no to the financial aspect.
“We want to move from the pro-rated third of the season cheque, for sure. You have to think about all the work that’s been put in during the off-season. The risk of playing six football games, getting injured, bust a knee, and then you’re going to miss out on the 2021 season. I don’t know if it’s worth it for the proposal that’s on the table right now,” Pruneau said.
“Report and pass, obviously we didn’t report yet, so they hold onto that and also housing since guys didn’t move. Even though there was specific dates on the contracts to get that money, they held on to that too. That’s things that we are looking into legally, but we don’t want to cause too much trouble to the CFL right now.”
That’s because the goal and focus for Pruneau and the CFLPA is for the league to move forward and get a season started. Winnipeg has tentatively been chosen as the hub city if the CFL does return to play in 2020. Committing to self-isolation and quarantine for up to 15 weeks (105 days) was part of the stipulations laid out from the league office.
“The league would definitely take care of everything in the hub city. That’s one of the reasons why we can move a little bit away from our initial contracts. If they take care of the housing and food, that’s more money in our pockets at the end of the day. We do consider that during our negotiations for sure, we don’t want to be greedy,” Pruneau said.
Originally, Thursday, July 23 was the CFL’s self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement with the CFLPA for a possible condensed schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the date was pushed to Friday, July 24 and it’s been bumped again to the end of July.
“They sent an initial proposal at the beginning of July. We’ve looked into that and there is some stuff we would like to change and we’re pretty much there right now. We’re fighting so hard for a 2020 season,” Pruneau said.
“On the PA side we work for our players and try to give them a better situation than what they’re in right now because for those guys who haven’t gotten money since last November, it’s really tough right now.”