Dear CFL and CFLPA,
Let's get this deal done gentlemen. Trying to keep the CBA negotiations private just hasn't happened, and it sounds like these discussions are going nowhere fast!
This letter is in no way an attempt to take sides on the issues, but just a reminder to both sides to stay focused on the big picture. The season must start on time. It is better for the teams, better for the players, and most importantly, better for the fans.
First to the CFL head office. You guys know better than anyone that the players for years have made sacrifices to keep the league alive and are grossly underpaid in comparison to the rest of the world of professional sports. So when you make a final offer, rather than tell the other side what they won't get, tell them what they do get...which is a real nice raise in the form of the cap being pushed up substantially. By doing so you show the players that while you may think it is too early to go back to revenue sharing, you do want to give the players an increase in the cap they can't refuse, a real increase.
Secondly, to the players' association. Let's not get obsessive about revenue sharing; if you can see that the offer, and increase in the cap, shows that the league is making the players the priority, get the deal signed. I understand you are playing the "so many players sacrificed in the past so now it is time to draw a line in the sand" card, however, as one of those players that back years ago took over a thirty per cent pay cut on a signed contract, I can tell you going on strike would in no way honour those players. Back then we never thought we would take pay cuts so that future players could shut the league down, and in doing so put it in jeopardy. In fact it was just the opposite. We put the game first back then, and wanted to avoid any chance of a work stoppage. So if you want to be a voice for the players of the past that sacrificed, then make sure the league kicks off on time.
The facts are that years ago players knew, due to the shaky financial ground that the league was on, that our contracts were barely worth the paper they were written on because at any time a GM could say, "I know you have a signed deal but we are ripping it up and you have to play for less money!"
However, what was also true at the time was owners like David Braley stepped up and put millions into the league to make sure that this great Canadian tradition would continue on for years to come. So yes, the players got paid less than their contracts read, but while that was happening owners were losing, at times, millions of their own hard earned dollars.
Players deserve more money, and owners like David Braley and Bob Wetenhall deserve to go a few years where they actually make a profit and make some of the money they have lost back.
A new television contract has changed the financial landscape of the game. It should all but guarantee that teams can be profitable no matter what their win/loss record looks like in any given year. Owners and in the case of community-owned teams, the taxpayers, will start to see the fruits of their labour and players will be compensated better for putting it all on the line when they cross the stripes.
All of which is a given and may be over-simplifying. However, once again to the league, make the salary cap bump substantial and reflect how much you respect the importance of the players. And to the players, there may be a time down the road when you can hold tough on revenue sharing, but that time is not now. So get a good raise, take care of some other issues, kick off the season on time, and support your families.
My father once told me that if someone starts slinging mud in the gutter, don't head to the gutter and start slinging mud back, because all that happens then is that everyone gets muddy. To both sides in these negotiations, this can't be about greed, about the sacrifices of past players, or about egos. The game is too important and the league is realizing momentum like never before in its history.
Most importantly, remember none of this is possible without the fans. Right now people are looking at buying their season tickets and trying to make plans for their summer holidays, and those plans are on hold. Fans in our Nation's Capital can't wait to have a home team again, and this time with owners that are in it for the long haul. Those fans are now putting their plans on hold while these negotiations continue.
It is time to end the, "I go high, you go low," negotiation strategy and sit down and hammer out a deal. Negotiating privately was a massive fail, and it looks like both sides are now trying to sway public opinion, and that is when egos get involved.
If it gets to that, shame on both sides, because at that point you are both just covered in mud.