The Canadian Football League and its players' association will resume talks at the bargaining table in Toronto later this week as the clock ticks down to the expiry of the current collective bargaining agreement on May 31.
The CFL and CFLPA have talks scheduled for Thursday and Friday at an airport hotel in Toronto, the first face-to-face meetings between the two parties since a two-day session in Calgary wrapped up April 11.
'I think both parties' ultimate goal is to be at training camp for June 1 and this is a step in the right direction...'
The last round of talks -- the first under newly elected CFLPA president Scott Flory -- accomplished little. Sources say some minor issues were settled in Calgary but all the major stumbling blocks still remain, beginning with the players insistence on some form of revenue sharing in any new contract and the league's steadfast refusal to budge on that issue.
The league has been equally steadfast in refusing to discuss publicly negotiations with the players' union, a stand they repeated yesterday with commissioner Mark Cohon declining comment through a spokesman.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers player representative Glenn January also declined on Monday to comment on any specifics regarding negotiations, but did have some general things to say. "Obviously, nobody enjoys this process but our goal is to have it resolved as fast as possible," said January.
"As a players association, we're excited to sit down with the CFL and try to advance this process as quickly as possible. I think both parties' ultimate goal is to be at training camp for June 1 and this is a step in the right direction to getting that done."
There are also another two days of talks tenatively slated for later in May.
The league and players remain far apart on a long list of issues. In addition to revenue sharing, there is also disagreement between the two parties on a wide range of what are being called 'player-safety' issues, including a demand from the CFLPA that full-contact practices be limited to one per week during the regular season, a change the NFL recently adopted.
While there has only been one work stoppage in this history of the CFL -- way back in 1974 -- there is mounting concern the league could be heading for another at a time when the players believe they have never had a stronger bargaining position.
With a new TV deal worth almost triple the old one kicking in this coming CFL season -- plus a new stadium opening in Hamilton and a new franchise opening in Ottawa -- the players have said publicly and privately they believe this is their time to make back some ground after decades of concessions to the league.
The league, in contrast, has taken the position that whatever economic progress the league has made in recent years remains tenuous and the bills teams are paying -- especially those with new or newly renovated stadiums -- have never been higher.