Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani has been covering the CFL for decades and he’s seen many games played between the league and players’ association.
Madani views the CFL’s self-imposed June 14 deadline for a decision on an August 5 season start as a negotiating tactic. For any season to kick-off a COVID-19 collective bargaining agreement needs to be agreed upon by both sides.
“It’s all part of the negotiation, just like we’ve seen with CBAs. You can put a line in the sand but the beauty of the sand is you can then put another line in the sand right beside it, that’s what we’re talking about right here,” Madani said on the 500th episode of The Rod Pedersen Show.
“You’re telling me if they can kick the tire down the road until June 21 and start on August 5 they wouldn’t? I don’t buy that. There target date is to get something done in the next week, but at no point do I believe that is an actual drop dead date.”
“I don’t believe there’s a drop dead date at all. That’s the league putting pressure on the players to say: ‘We have to do this.’ And to try and get the players to give in on some of their demands. I don’t believe in the drop dead date.”
The CFL delayed its start date with a 14-game schedule targeted to kick-off on August 5, culminating in a currently planned December 12 Grey Cup. For the timeline to be met, the league requires ‘a significant number of fans’ to be allowed in stadiums by municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
“I still think there’s a capability to play — a capability. Does everybody want to play? We still have not heard from Toronto. And as much as Montreal has talked around it, are they willing to put the flag down and do it? I’d love to hear the yes,” Madani said.
“We have from Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats are hosting the Grey Cup, there’s a lot there. We’ve heard from Ottawa. We’ve heard from Rick LeLacheur in B.C. But we haven’t heard from everybody.”
The league and players’ union began meetings during the second week of February with a focus on playing football this year. The two sides have submitted return to play health and safety plans to various levels of government in Canada and are working to finalize the details in hopes of getting the final stamp from the nation’s capital.
“I never believed that August 5 was the absolute concrete date. From the beginning I thought that could be delayed a little bit, even further down the road. When this was all going on and talking to people across the league, across the federal government, I had always thought that a late August, Labour Day-ish start could be on the horizon,” Madani said.
“They’re hopeful for August 5. Can they? Yeah. Do I think they will? Yeah. Do I think it’ll be August 5? Around there. But I don’t believe in the drop dead date.”
After the Canadian government refused to provide a $30 million interest-free loan a year ago, the board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season. The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million last year and are set to lose millions more if any kind of season is played in 2021.
“The coaches are still being paid, the administrators are still being paid, I get that they’ve taken pay cuts, but there is at least some money going into their pockets,’ Madani said.
“A couple handful of guys got signing bonuses from signing in the off-season, but for the most part the players haven’t gotten much of anything. Those are the people you have to think about. And how much are they willing to further give up to play a much shortened season? That’s another question.”
The answer could decide the fate of a season this year, but the players deserve to be compensated fairly if football is played.