QJSports: CFL strike

It’s often quite hard for the common fan to sympathize with unions of professional athletes and groups of owners looking to lockout part or all of their season due to a labour dispute.

From an average fan’s perspective, it can seem like the difference between the two groups is often just a matter of whoever is less greedy. Fans are left often distanced from the negotiations with no real source of input.

When athletes are earning multi-million dollar salaries and team owners are earning even more in profits, lockouts are a nightmare for an average fan. Recent examples include the NBA, NHL and NFL having various labour disputes, which have left fans waiting for their favourite league to return to business as usual.

Yet for those fans who follow the Canadian Football League, most know it isn’t always that simple. Both the players and owners groups find themselves in a spot where both sides obviously don’t want a lockout, but it may be the last resort if the two sides don’t see eye-to-eye.

The CFL Players’ Association is currently involved in ongoing discussions with the owners and the league, as there is no permanent Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for the upcoming season, slated to kick off on June 26. While reports of a temporary agreement were announced on June 9, there is current uncertainty whether the Players’ Association will ratify it, following a series of votes. The major issue is raising each team’s salary cap, where a few numbers have been offered from each side, but nothing has come to fruition.

Despite having a “pro” label, athletes in the CFL rarely make more than $100,000, with the odd star player raking in up to $400,000. While actual individual salary figures aren’t disclosed publicly by the league or its teams, the independent website CFLDB.ca suggests the minimum salary starts as low as $43,000.To top it off, football careers are always one injury away from being cut short, with few lasting more than 5-10 professional seasons.

Owners aren’t turning in massive profits either. CFL team values have recently been reported anywhere in the neighbourhood of $10-20 million, which is no small penny, but nowhere near the value of teams in the larger leagues, some of which exceed $1 billion in value. The current salary cap is in the neighbourhood of about $5 million, which is only a portion of a team’s operating costs.

As negotiations of a new agreement between the two sides continue, here’s to hoping that a Canadian summer tradition won’t be put on hold.

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