‘A certain level of sacrifice’ will be required by everyone for a full CFL season: Farhan Lalji

Screengrab courtesy: TSN

Players are feeling the pain when it comes to the league’s proposal to accept a 20% pay cut for games played without fans should a full 18-game season be played, but they aren’t the only ones.

“Their message to me was they’re going to go to every stakeholder as they try to put the puzzle together on how they can financially make this work — knowing they’re not expecting any government money — to play without fans,” Farhan Lalji told SportsCage listeners on Wednesday.

“They’re going to go to all the stakeholders and basically say ‘what’s it worth to you? What are you prepared to do to make it happen?’. That ultimately means a certain level of sacrifice.”

That hasn’t made players feel any less slighted by the 20% cut.

After many took massive reductions this offseason as teams colluded to spend only to the salary cap floor, the initial reaction to the proposal was overwhelmingly negative. Once fans return to stadiums, that cut to weekly pay would reduce accordingly and once a threshold of fans capacity is reached, full pay would be restored.

The exact figures remain a mystery but full salary would be awarded at well under full capacity and a full 20 percent cut would only occur in the worst case scenario of an 18-game season without any fans at any point.

“If you’re a player, there’s a lot of different ways to look at it. First of all, you can turn around and say we just took a 12% pay cut right out of the gate at the start a free agency because you guys decided to operate at the league minimum salary cap,” Lalji explained.

“Or you can look at it and say what about if we lose a half a season? I only get paid for those games [I play]. Would I rather get paid 80% for those games and then potentially get closer to full pay once we get fans in the stands?”

Effusive in his praise for CFL players, Lalji doesn’t begrudge an athlete taking either stance or simply tapping out should they find better work elsewhere, but insists the narrative that the players are the only ones hurting is simply untrue.

“I’m telling you right now, the pay cuts that football ops got a year ago, every team that I know of still has those in place, if not more,” Lalji said.

“Believe me, in the CFL office, the staff went from 72 down to 45. That’s position. It’s not including the people that are still there that also got salary cuts. We’re talking about positions. Teams have made their own decisions on [salary] rollbacks along with positions and it works differently for every organization, but I do believe that there’s a lot of pain being felt across the board. You can just choose how you want to interpret it based on when specific cuts were asked to be taken.”

Even if CFL players agree to take another chunk off their salary, there is no guarantee a full-season would be the result and many have accused the league of attempting to scapegoat the players to justify their own inevitable decision.

There is that potential according to Lalji, but that is a double-edged sword.

“Just from an optics and PR standpoint, if the players say no, it would be easy for the league to say I guess we’re not playing,” he admitted.

“Now if the player say yes, from a PR standpoint it would be a punch in the face to the CFL if they then said no [to an on-time start]. This could work both ways.”

No matter which way you slice it, the pain is going to keep coming.