Players’ union leaders: CFL’s financial issues could be solved by revenue sharing

The leaders of the CFL Players’ Association agree the league’s longtime financial issues could be solved by sharing revenue.

Union president Solomon Elimimian and executive director Brian Ramsay want the league’s owners and teams to split the revenue evenly to ensure long-term viability.

“A big part of that in terms of structure is financial stability, and incorporating that stability would be one of the biggest and most pressing challenges within the governance structure across the league,” Ramsay said on Sportsnet 650 radio in Vancouver.

“We have to look at revenue sharing and really delve deep because it doesn’t matter how much money Saskatchewan brings in or Hamilton brings in if other clubs are suffering,” Elimimian said. “The CFL is only as strong as the collective.”

During commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s plea to the Canadian government for up to $150 million in coronavirus financial aid, he revealed that collectively CFL teams lost between $10 and $20 million dollars per season in recent years.

“It’s no surprise some of our big market clubs struggle financially. If an internal revenue sharing model at the league level, and the team level, is put in, you could put a lot of those financial challenges aside,” Ramsay said.

“Once you’re able to take the focus away from the constant financial struggles, you can then turn your attention to the marketing, growing the fanbase, things that I think we all would agree need to be done in order to grow our great league.”

The founder of 3DownNation, Drew Edwards, did some cocktail napkin math in 2018 when the CFL salary cap was $5.2 million; multiply that by nine teams and the total is $46.8 million. That works out to 22.3 percent of the reported $210 million in CFL revenues going to player salaries.

“Your No. 1 expense is pre-paid by the broadcast deal, which is the player expense, the players’ salary. That’s pre-paid before we even step on the football field, and yet you tell me that we can’t be successful on the business side,” Elimimian said.

In pro sports, player compensation is often tied to league revenue. While formulas for what is and isn’t included can be convoluted, NHL players receive approximately 50 per cent of revenues, NBA players get between 49 and 51 per cent, and NFL players see between 46.5 and 48 per cent. The MLB is also around 50 per cent.

“If we start at that same percentages or if that’s something with a new model that we work to, those are things that we can continue to discuss. When we look right now where the expenses go to they’re not going to the players,” Ramsay said.

“The players salaries as a percentage against annual revenue are not comparable right now and we do believe investing in the product — which is the players — that would solve a lot of issues as we continue to market the game and promote the game around the country and around the world.”

Ramsay feels the answer is simple: the CFL and its players should split the revenue in a way that’s similar to other league across the globe. It’s a proven model that works and the players deserve to share in the revenue that’s comparable to other industry standards.

“It starts with changes in the financial stability and ensuring that we’re on a footing to be successful moving forward,” Ramsay said. “It’s important that the survival of the league and the growth of the league takes the forefront to any individual. That will give us that opportunity to be successful as a league.”

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