After yet another meeting -- this time in Toronto -- without any significant progress on revenue sharing, something is becoming abundantly clear: The CFL is not going to revisit this economic model unless they are absolutely forced to do so, and rightfully so.
In any negotiation, you don't concede something if you don't respect the resolve of your adversary, and that is what the collective bargaining conflict between the CFL and its players is coming down to.
Will the players stand together if they are forced to choose between what is best for their association and what is best for their immediate selves? It appears the league is betting they won't.
It makes sense the players' relations committee (the entity that represents the CFL) is not negotiating publicly. Why would they? Any way you look at it, they lose the battle of public opinion. In the last CBA it was the players, not the league, who compromised in order to have an uninterrupted season.
With the new television deal more than double the previous one, the CFL has put the cart before the horse and gone on stadium shopping sprees without first allocating the players their fair share.
No matter how you spin it, the CFL does not have a case to negotiate publicly. So why would they bother? Especially if they are confident their best offence is the expectation their opponent will falter.
If everything we know and have heard about these negotiations is valid, then this really is the most leverage the players' association has had over the league in decades. For every one of the reasons the CFL says it cannot hand over a larger piece of the pie, there's a reason the players are in an advantageous position. With a new team and new venues being debuted and built, the CFL cannot afford a work stoppage. But why argue a point of contention if you don't believe your opponent has any bullets in their gun?
The CFL is not going to give back revenue sharing unless the players force them to, and in the opinion of a source close to this situation, the league doesn't believe that will happen.
Leverage is only perceived and is no more than an empty threat until it is acted upon. In order for it to be realized, the players have to be able to withhold their services. For a strike to happen, a majority percentage of the players must agree to not work by way of secret ballot. That is where my source feels the players will falter.
This CFL insider, who wishes to remain anonymous, feels when push comes to shove, when the players are asked to strike via secret ballot, they will secure their own immediate interests and future, not those of the membership. Quite frankly, the expectation is that by the time training camp rolls around, the majority of the players will be broke and therefore forced to only look out for themselves.
At the other end of the spectrum, though, is the opinion the CFLPA has done a good job communicating to its membership there has never been a better time to regain a foothold and improve the economic conditions for its workforce. While it may require short-term sacrifices from the players, the entire group and future generations of players could benefit if they can simply maintain their solidarity as a group.
If the membership can grasp the perspective that as much as they are anxious to get paid and start the season on schedule, the CFL is even more desperate to get going, everything they are hoping to win in this negotiation is there for the taking. They are just going to have to get up and go get it.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.