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Letter from commissioner Cohon to CFL players

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TSN.ca Staff
5/21/2014 11:02:33 AM
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The following letter from commissioner Mark Cohon was sent to CFL players on Wednesday.

May 21, 2014
 
Dear CFL Players:

On May 15, 2014, we presented your Executive Committee with a full and comprehensive offer that unfortunately was rejected.   We believe that this offer is fair and reasonable, and we want to share its details with you.

If ratified by the Players, the CFL offer would provide the following:

Financial Terms

- Increase the salary cap by 9% this season from $4,400,000 to $4,800,000 per team (and further increasing by $50,000 each year over the following five years to $5,050,000)
- Effectively increase the average player salary up to 12% this season from $82,904 to $92,917 (and further increasing over the following five years)
- Increase the minimum player salary by 11% this season from $45,000 to $50,000 (and further increasing to $55,000 over the following five years)
- A further increase to the salary cap of $100,000 per team if the CFL receives more television revenue from TSN under a renegotiated broadcast agreement for each remaining year on the CBA
- Maintain the $450,000 annual payment to the CFLPA for Player marketing and other rights

This has been a long and difficult process for all involved.  And when it comes right down to it, we just want to play.  So, we have also offered to pay a ratification bonus of $3,000 to veteran Players and $1,000 to rookie Players (on a team roster as at June 22, 2014) if this agreement is ratified on or before June 2, 2014.
 
Player Safety & Welfare

- Immediately add two players to each team's Active Roster
- Immediately restrict the number of contact practices during the regular season
- Maintain 2013 CFL policy to restrict the number of contact practices during training camp
- Maintain all current Player pension, medical plan and life insurance benefits
- Maintain all CFL annual payments for Player counselling and rehabilitation support under the CFL-CFLPA Drug Policy 
 
On May 20, 2014 your Executive Committee provided us with their financial proposal in response to our offer.  The CFLPA's financial proposal provides for a salary cap increase to $6.24 million in 2014, as well as approximately $240,000 per team per year in other monetary increases to pre and post-season compensation and pension plan contributions per year.  From 2015 forward, significantly more would be added to salary cap based on a revenue sharing model.  We advised the CFLPA in no uncertain terms that their proposal was not realistic, and would not form the basis for any financial settlement.  In fact, it would threaten the very existence of the CFL.  We have obviously rejected the CFLPA proposal today in negotiations, and we have told your Executive Committee that we are prepared to meet in bargaining at any time once they are prepared to discuss a fair and reasonable settlement that makes sense for both the Players and the League.

Over the last five years, we have improved the foundation of our league.  However, our work in this regard is not yet complete.  Continued investment, focus and effort is required to achieve our vision of a strong, stable, and sustainable CFL.  And while we remain mindful of the additional steps we must take, we also recognize the progress, together with the Players, that we have already made.  And this progress is reflected in this offer.

The CFL offer strikes an appropriate balance of, on the one hand, providing significant compensation increases and health & safety improvements to the Players while, on the other hand, creating an environment in which the League and its teams can continue to build for a strong and stable future.  It provides a fair share to the Players, and helps us to effectively manage our businesses with a view to a strong future - for everyone. 

Over the last 25 years, with limited exceptions, CFL teams have either operated at a financial loss or struggled to generate even the slightest amount of profit.  There are numerous factors that contributed to this, but central among them was the unbalanced relationship between revenues and all costs.  Quite simply, the revenues being generated from the primary revenue streams of ticket sales, television, and sponsorships were insufficient to meet the essential operating requirements of the teams. Investments were needed in infrastructure (notably in stadiums and training facilities), and in modernizing our operations (i.e. developing our internet capabilities, and actively building competitive brands in our largest markets).  However, without operating profits these investments were either insufficient, or not made at all, at both the League and team levels. 

A reasonable, fixed salary cap provides the foundation for a sensible business model.   The League and teams have started to invest in their own futures.  They have increased the skill and professionalism of their business leaders and staff, consistently and thoughtfully begun to strengthen their brands in their local markets, and have spent or committed $175 million in private money towards major stadium and infrastructure projects to create a modern CFL.  Instead of reverting back to the days of old - limited investment, limited growth, significant instability, and a stagnant or declining business - we have a credible opportunity to boldly look to the future.  In this new scenario, everybody ultimately wins.  

If you have any questions about this offer, please speak with your team's Players' Association representative or a member of your Executive Committee.

I want to thank you for considering this offer. This is not an easy process. The business side of football is never as much fun as the game itself. But we all share a responsibility to ensure that our league is strong for this generation of CFL fans and those that follow.

Thank you for your consideration and your dedication to our League.
 
Mark Cohon
Commissioner
Canadian Football League

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(Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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