The CFL office and board of governors have identified one new way to reduce the financial obligations for a potential 2021 season that involves reducing player salaries.
According to sources, the league’s power brokers and presidents are discussing and working to execute an idea to limit total player compensation, even if the union doesn’t want to amend the current collective bargaining agreement. The CFL and CFLPA haven’t talked about player compensation for next year, yet.
The current CBA runs until the beginning of training camp in the spring of 2022. Included in the current framework is a salary cap of $5.35 million. It’s never been identified that the minimum expenditure for teams around the league was set at $4.75 million for 2021. That’s exactly how franchises can save $600,000 each and $5.4 million total without any negotiation.
At the league level, the member clubs are proposing that each president sign an agreement to ensure spending to the salary cap floor is enforced. However, that would require the honour system and could create compliance issues.
Theoretically, a team could still spend to the maximum salary cap to provide the best chance to play at Tim Hortons Field in the 2021 Grey Cup. If the league wants teams to spend only to the salary floor, there would need to be a harsh penalty for going over the agreed upon number. Then again, the Toronto Argonauts faced no ramifications for violating the salary cap in 2019.
CFL Players’ Association executive director Brian Ramsay has stated player salaries are approximately 25 percent of league revenue. That’s well below the 50 percent mark the other major pro sports leagues enjoy in North America.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, player salaries in the three-down league were not holding it back from financial prosperity. That seemingly won’t stop the league office from possibly drawing the salary cap back a little over 11 percent.
The football operations cap has been trimmed by 20 percent from just under $2.59 million to $2 million or the equivalent of over $500,000 per team. Add together the general managers, coaches, scouts, equipment people and video personnel savings with the players and it totals nearly $10 million — significant money in the CFL.
The league office provided 3DownNation with an exclusive statement: It’s not surprising that individual CFL teams are considering spending to the floor of the current salary cap for players. This option for teams has always existed under the current collective bargaining agreement. And it is common sense that clubs are choosing it now. The pandemic has had a drastic effect on their revenues.
Like so many other businesses, and families, here in Canada and around the world, our clubs are looking to get a handle on their costs at the same time they plan for their future. Their coaches and other football operations staff, along with business office employees, have already seen their compensation reduced. Some have been subjected to temporary furlough. We continue to talk with the CFLPA, with high expectations that we can and will work together to help shape a strong and prosperous future.
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the league is not a wealthy business during his infamous presentation to the standing committee on finance last May. He claimed teams lose between $10 and $20 million collectively per season since taking office in 2017.
Being able to cut roughly $10 million off the books should bode well for returning to play in the future, but there remains a train of thought in league circles that the coronavirus is being used as a convenient excuse to reduce the amount of cash flowing to CFL players.
Until the accounting spreadsheets are seen by the CFLPA, there will always be a level of distrust between the sides.