While the CFL’s 2021 season is still underway, league officials and the CFLPA are preparing to start another round of collective bargaining.
After the CFL’s 2020 season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CFLPA and the league amended their agreement to allow for a 2021 season to occur. However, the CFL’s current collective-bargaining agreement is set to expire in May of 2022.
Their original deal was agreed upon just before CFL training camps in May of 2019 and came after some highly intense negotiations between the two sides that saw the players vote over 97% in favor of a strike. Contract talks were no easier 4-years prior when negotiations broke down a few times along with several threats of a strike before players eventually showed up for camp and the two sides cranked out a 5-year deal.
CFL players have ever only gone on strike one time, in 1974, but things were settled between the players and the league before the start of the regular season.
When asked about previous negotiations, former Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman and first vice-president of the CFL Players Association, John Bowman, said,
“It’s action packed, Being in those rooms, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had to fight back a lot of words in those rooms but at the end of the day, when you’re talking to people who own something, of course they want the most money. But what we’re talking about as players is we just want to be treated fairly.”
Deciding not to play a season in 2020 came at a significant cost to the CFL, who lost between $60 and $80 Million per an anonymous source that repeatedly told The Canadian Press. However, a conflicting report came from commissioner Randy Ambrosie in May of 2020, when he told a standing committee on finance in the House of Commons that the CFL lost roughly $20 million for not playing a season that year.
While teams did return to play in 2021, the league is playing a shortened schedule, with only 14 regular season games rather than the usual 18, reducing teams from 9 to only 7 home games and cutting potential gate revenues by 22%. Additionally, teams have only been able to play games with stadiums at full capacity recently, which is bad news for a gate-driven league like the CFL.
“This year, 2021, we knew as a union and as a league it was going to be tough,” Bowman said. “Just because the priority where people had to put their money at coming off a year where many Canadians were out of work and living off wage subsidies and stuff like that.”
“In that same breath, I want to thank the people who’ve been coming because it takes a lot to spend that, whether you buy $25 tickets or $100 tickets. I want to show appreciation to the fans who’re coming. To the ones who want to come but can’t afford it, thank you.”
The CFL and CFLPA resuming collective bargaining talks are nothing new for either side, as the agreements seem to cover shorter terms than other leagues such as the NFL or NBA’s collective bargaining agreements. On top of that, they are fresh off negotiating changes to the current CBA, so the 2021 season could occur.
“It’s definitely not the healthiest way to operate a business,” Bowman said.” Until as a union we feel like we can fully trust (CFL), then that’s when you lock it in for five, 10 years, kind of what the NFL and NBA are doing.”
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