Naturalized Canadian status ‘gaining traction,’ changes to ratio likely in new CBA: Farhan Lalji

The CFL and CFLPA are deep in discussions on a new collective bargaining agreement and it seems that serious changes to the ratio in the form of naturalized Canadian status for some American veterans will be on its way.

“This thing is gaining traction and, quite frankly, is amongst the players as well,” TSN reporter Farhan Lalji said on The Green Zone.

“You’ve seen before, when you’ve had Scott Flory as the head of the Players’ Association, it was over my dead body. You will not touch this ratio in any way, shape or form. But that’s not the tone from the CFL Players’ Association executive that’s negotiating this. I do believe you’re going to see some change.”

The exact nature of the changes being discussed aren’t known, but those on the league side want to be able to use veteran American players in place of Canadian starters and bottom of the roster players.

The league toyed with the concept during the 2021 season, however the CFL and CFLPA disagreed on their interpretation of the agreed upon language. In the end, the starting ratio expanded from seven to 10 spots of which three could be filled by Americans who had spent three seasons with the same team or four in the league. Those same players could also substitute for a Canadian starter in the event of injury.

Some of the league’s most powerful voices would like to see actual cuts to the quota of Canadian starters and the overall number on the roster. Traditionally, the CFLPA has fought tooth and nail against any alteration to the Canadian ratio, but efforts to more fairly represent their American members in recent years means they are seeking some form of benefit for veterans.

Lalji believes that a compromise exists which could preserve true Canadian starting spots at the cost of reducing the overall number of Canadian players on a roster and notes that the majority of feedback to that idea has been positive, unlike with other recent rule change proposals like four downs.

Fans want to see their American stars rewarded for service, though some may quibble about who should fit the naturalized definition. Many, including Lalji, believe the three year requirement is too low.

“Who are we trying to reward? Are we just trying to get better players in? Which is a good reason. Or are we trying to reward that American player that’s chosen to make Canada their home and they’re doing all the off-season work and they’re trying to give a little more to their communities,” he said, noting that adding additional pre-requisites could be too cumbersome.

“For me, I’d love to see it that a player also spends their off-season in that city and contributes, but then are you going to put that player in a worse tax bracket that he could be in if he lived in Florida in the off-season, where there’s no state tax.”

Whatever the language is ultimately set at, changes to the ratio are a virtual certainty at this stage and Lalji anticipates that a new CBA will be ready before the season, though it still remains unlikely to be signed before the eleventh hour.

What was once a divisive issue is far more amicable under an American-led PA and he believes all will be able to live with the changes.

“They are talking, they’re not fighting. They are talking about this and the tone of it is pretty good,” Lalji added. “I do think that you’re going to see some common ground that we’re all going to be able to find palatable.”