The CFL and CFLPA have ended talks for the time being after the two sides exchanged proposals today and were unable to reach an agreement.
The current CBA expires at 10:59 p.m. today. Many teams have already held strike votes although the two Alberta based teams cannot accept ballots until the CBA officially ends.
Players around the league were saying today they expect the union to instruct players to report and attend training camps this weekend "in good faith" until the CFLPA reviews all its options.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon spoke to the Free Press and outlined his latest offer to the players as well as his perspective on the situation.
"The players are really concerned about protection in case there are more breakout revenues, whether it be through a new TV deal or dramatic attendance increases or some huge sponsorship agreement," said Cohon. "We said we absolutely want to protect them and came back with an idea of saying, ‘if we have extraordinary revenues with a league aggregate of $27 million, we would be open to opening the CBA and negotiating a new cap.’ We made great progress on that on Wednesday. But then, when we got to the issue of the fixed cap and we walked the players through the entire finances of the league and the aggregate loss of the league and the effect their previous proposal would have, it showed it wasn’t a great situation. So we put our final offer on the table and they came back with something that was economically unrealistic which is why we are here today."
CFLPA president Scott Flory issued a statement detailing his union’s latest offer and has sent a letter to all his players preparing them for a strike.
"Please adhere to the terms of your contract, report and participate in training camp. After the votes are conducted in Alberta, we will then ALL serve strike notice and strike together," writes Flory, in a letter to all league players. "Whenever the action takes place we will be banding together and logistically we will find a solution for all of our members," he wrote today. "This may include leaning on the veterans, alumni and friends of the PA for billeting our players that do not have a place to stay or cannot afford a place of their own."
The key elements to the proposal tabled by the players includes a salary cap that starts at $5.8 million and increases three per cent per year with a minimum floor of $4.8 million that rises in correlation with the cap.
The players have also agreed to drop their demand of revenue being tied to the cap for the first two years of the deal. If after the second year there has been a league-wide increase of revenue exceeding $12 million the parties will renegotiate the cap or the CBA will terminate at the end of that season.
The CFLPA proposal also called for a one-time ratification bonus of $15,000 per veteran which would equate to around $600,000 per team based on 40 veterans per club.
The league’s offer calls for a cap of $5 million with ratification bonuses of $5,000 per veteran and $1,500 per rookie which averages out around $250,000 per team.
The cap would rise at a rate of $50,000 per season over a term of five years plus an option and would have a similar revenue growth protection clause that would kick in at $27 million as early as 2016 in the third year of the agreement.
"This is a significant rise from the cap of $4.4 we were at last year. If you look at the average salary it would rise from $82,000 to $96,000. Minimum salaries would go up and we would have the extraordinary revenue protection the players are after," said Cohon. "If each team has breakout revenues that equate to $3 million per club, we’ll open the agreement and renegotiate the cap."
The point was made to Cohon that the players cap was at $5.8 million in the first year and his offer was for $5 million. Why couldn’t they split the difference and get on the field.
"That’s not what it is. I want to give you the facts on that. What (the players have) is a cap of $5.8 million plus a ratification bonus of $15,000 per veteran and with an average of 44 vets per team that’s $660,000 which gets you close to $6.5 million. Then you add in many other things that are off the cap and you get to $6.7 or $6.8 million and you can see there’s an enormous gulf," said Cohon.
Cohon was asked where this left things in terms of negotiations.
"This is actually a worse offer than the one they presented to us before and it would put two-thirds of our teams into losses. Winnipeg wouldn’t be able to service it’s debt. We’ve put our best offer forward. Camps are opening up and players are reporting and we want the union to take this offer to the players and put it to a vote. Whether they will do it is a question for the union. We hope they do."