Wednesday night ended the Canadian Football League’s first goal in nearly 40 years, opening the door for a full resumption of training camps and the first on-time start to the regular season since 2019.
The CFL and the CFL Players Association reached an initial seven-year agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on Wednesday, less than 96 hours after the strike began when talks stalled.
Monday’s pre-season game in Saskatchewan between the Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – an announcement is expected on Thursday – has been rescheduled – but in terms of actual injuries due to this downtime, that’s it.
The end result is a deal – still to be ratified by the league’s board of governors and CFLPA members – that delivers measurable gains for players in many areas including health and safety, revenue sharing, salary caps and guaranteed contracts.
There are concrete measures to slow player turnover, which has long been a problem with the CFL in collective bargaining.
The big question mark from an economic point of view is how viable the revenue-sharing formula will be for players, and whether they will really be able to participate in any boom in the league.
There is always a lot of controversy surrounding the state of the business in Canadian football, but this deal suggests that not everything is all bad and bleak. After two years in which the league suffered heavy losses from the lost 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy losses from a reduced 14-game schedule in 2021, the Premier League has not been negotiating like the league that was in its last stages.
Provided minimum annual increases to the maximum salary that are twice those stipulated in the last CBA. And the league signed a deal that progressed far more than has been presented in recent memory. All this suggests that there should be some optimism about what lies ahead, barely a year after the CFL parted ways with the idea of merging with XFL.
So, if there was a lot of “give” on the part of the owners in this deal, what did they “get” in return?
Essentially, besides the duration of the deal, the league has gained flexibility for its teams in how the league ratio applies to Canadians. The CFL ratio is always the most controversial, misunderstood and controversial aspect of Canadian football – people tend to love it or hate it.
The association itself tends to love it… well, sort of.
There was never an intention to cancel the league’s quota for the 21 Canadian players on each roster, seven of whom must be starters.
But downgrade it? Sure, the league has always been open to that and the players’ union has always opposed it.
The uncomfortable truth in all of this is that lowering the percentage improves the quality of the game, and improving the quality of the game is something the league has become very interested in recently. This is not a blow to Canadians. It’s just an admission that the number of players in the United States far outnumbers the players north of the border.
The two teams came up with a solution that preserves the seven Canadian starting players, but provides more flexibility for coaches to use American players than they have been able to in the past. Specifically, veteran US players, those who have spent at least three years with their team or five in the league, will be allowed to play as Canadians in some circumstances.
Not only will this put more top players on the field, but it will also give additional value to American veterans, slowing down roster turnover, another major issue that this agreement effectively addresses.
Players have a strong incentive to re-sign with their teams, as this allows for up to 50 percent of the final years of their contracts to be guaranteed.
In general, player movement from team to team and out of the league should slow down, which is a real win for players, fans and general managers.
It’s hard to imagine what the world of Canadian football will be like in 2029, when the new Canadian Football Association expires.
No doubt a lot has changed.
The league is ushered into this future with a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses many of the longstanding issues in the CFL.
It’s hard to say who wins in business, given all the uncertainties that lie ahead.
But for now, all that matters most is that collective bargaining has been put to bed and the CFL is finally ready to kick off a full season of football.