Canadian Football League players sign collective bargaining agreement; Full throttle into the 2022 season

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In typical Canadian Football League fashion, Thursday ended in a dangerous battle of wills off the field, but nervous fans can breathe a sigh of relief as the 2022 season gets underway.

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This is pending ratification by the CFL Board of Directors.

The negotiating committees of the league and the CFL Players Association on Thursday afternoon agreed on a seven-year interim wage agreement. In a vote of the majority of members, excluding rookies, this deal was ratified and an announcement made by the PA just before 10pm ET, two hours before the league’s closing date.

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That means there will be a whole host of preseason games, starting with two on Friday; a full 18-game regular season; Playoffs and a Gray Cup in quaint Regina, Sask. End of November. It will be the first full CFL roster since 2019, as the 2020 campaign was wiped out by COVID-19 and the 2021 season was shortened to 14 games, again due to pandemic restrictions and concerns.

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“We are pleased that players have now ratified a new collective agreement between the CFL and CFLPA,” said Commissioner Randy Ambrosie. “The CFL Board of Governors will shortly hold its ratification vote. We look forward to a successful season, including this weekend’s pre-season games, and a long and productive partnership with our players.”

The CBA, negotiated Thursday, provides for a $1.225 million ratification bonus shared between the nine teams ($136,111 per team) and for a nationalized American to play as the eighth starting Canadian in 2023. Even in 2023, there may be two nationalized Americans playing up to 49 percent of the snaps in place of one of the Canadian starters. And the CFL has an option to make it three in 2024.

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To encourage teams to continue playing homegrown talent despite this permission, the two teams with the most Canadian player snaps each season will receive an additional second-round pick in the CFL draft. These picks will replace the current territorial picks

It’s a creative solution to a problem that doomed the first tentative agreement. A large majority of CFLPA members voted against that previous deal because it immediately allowed three nationalized American players to take up to 49 percent of the snaps for a Canadian starter.

The overwhelming refusal had brought the two sides into a dangerous stalemate, threatening a protracted strike. However, the CFL filed a modified proposal on Tuesday that required a nationalized American to enlist in one of the seven existing Canadian starters. The league also offered a $1 million ratification bonus, although it wasn’t new money. Instead, they moved it away from the tail end of the revenue-sharing arrangement that was already in place in the original interim CBA.

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Regardless, steps were taken to reassure some of the players who opposed the first tentative deal, and the league’s willingness to revisit the two contentious issues on Wednesday and Thursday provided the necessary scope for another tentative one Agreement.

The offer also includes:

♦ The first revenue-sharing agreement between the two sides, incorporating all revenue into the formula, including that from Gray Cup.

♦ An increase in long-term health insurance from three to four years in 2022 and five years in 2023 and for the remainder of the agreement.

♦ The CFLPA may reopen the CBA after five years once the TSN broadcast contract expires. The term ends 30 days before the start of the training camp, not the evening before the camp.

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♦ A veteran who has expired on his first contract and re-signs with the same club can be guaranteed up to 50 per cent of his base salary in the last year of his next contract, be it a two-, three- or four-year contract.

♦ One year of service in the NFL counts as one year on the starting lineup, so a player who has served three years in the NFL may return to the CFL as a free agent and negotiate a contract as such. If a player plays in the South for two years, they live under rookie cap terms for one season.

♦ Global players receive a raise to the league minimum, which is $65,000 this year, $70,000 next year, increasing to $75,000 over the term of the contract.

♦ The grievance and arbitration system was changed to allow the CFLPA to speak directly to team GMs and/or Presidents to try to resolve issues rather than having to go through the league office first. Arbitrators have also been added to the list.

♦ The league and CFLPA also agreed on the terms of a COVID travel policy, the return of the NFL window, a player housing benefit tied to average national rents, mental health and addiction programs, a code of conduct for players and fans, administrative language regarding work permits and national certification of all equipment and medical staff interacting with players.

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