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Suitor: It's time to publicize the CFL's negotiation list

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Glen Suitor
12/14/2010 1:02:07 AM
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It's time to publicize the negotiation list.

You know those moments when you are talking to a person in charge, like a school principal, a government official, or a sports general manager, and you ask them a question that they answer with such conviction that even though you still may disagree with the answer and it didn't in anyway solve the issues you had, you walk away thinking; well I guess it is important and there must be a good reason for it.

That is the feeling I get every time I talk to a general manager in the CFL about the negotiation list and the fact that the public is not allowed to see it.
 
Currently, each team in the CFL can protect 35 players (primarily from the United States) on their ''negotiation list'' for any length of time they chose. It is a list that is constantly changing with new players being added and old ones deleted, but it is controlled by the clubs and is not information that is available to the sports fan. The clubs know who is on each teams list and the 35 players are registered with the league but after that, this document is classified where not even the athletes on them are privy to the information.
 
Through countless discussions on the topic with GMs in the league, it is clear that keeping the players on the list in the dark is key to the process because under the current "unofficial yet official" rules, as soon as a player finds out he is on a teams negotiation list he can force that team to either sign him to a practice roster agreement, put him on the active roster within ten days, or the team would have to take him off their list.

I say "unofficial yet official" because while the negotiation list is in the league bylaws, the rules for the list seem to have evolved over time without real debate between the league, it's member clubs, the players association and other league partners, which is why this article is not an attempt to find blame in a system that actually has its merits. Instead, suggest why it needs to be examined and possibly overhauled, and at the very least be made public.

Clearly the benefit of a list like this is to protect the "diamond in the rough" found by a club; that player that no one else found and a discovery that rewards a teams scouting system. The team invested time and money to turn over every rock possible to find players and if they do find something special but don't have the room to place the player on the roster immediately, they should be able to protect that investment.

I get that, to a point.
 
The negotiation list gives GMs a stock pile of talent that they worked hard to build, but to be able to protect that athlete indefinitely and to be able to keep it private certainly doesn't benefit the players involved, the fans, or the league in general.

There are a couple of possible solutions, like a draft for American players, but at the very least there could be a compromise where a club could protect a player for a couple of years but be forced at the end of that time to make a decision on the player one way or another or have to cut him loose. But most importantly, sports fans have to have access to those lists though the entire process.

With the US College Bowl season right around the corner, thousands of Canadians - including yours truly - could be enjoying some great college football while also focusing in on players currently on the negotiation lists of teams in the CFL. Sure they are players that may end up in the NFL and/or may not play football after college, but it doesn't mean sports fans couldn't discuss the possibilities. I understand that it could create debate and maybe even at times critique directed at team officials and their negotiation list decisions, but surely a confident GM that has a plan and the ability to evaluate talent wouldn't be concerned with newspaper articles or radio talk show debate, would they? 

Truth is, for 12 months a year in our country, fans debate hockey free agency, salaries and rosters. Everyone likes to play the role of GM, so why aren't CFL teams creating that same type of discussion and debate in football? Making the negotiation list public would give fans a chance to build their fantasy teams, debate roster possibilities and, while watching the NCAA or the NFL, relate the athletes they watch down south to the game they love right here at home.

When asked about the negotiation list, GMs in the CFL are vague and want to change the subject but it is time to discuss it, possibly tweak it, and most importantly make it public.

Let the debate begin - Please.

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