The next 48 hours may be significant to determining if the Canadian Football League's 2014 training camp, and possibly regular season, starts on schedule, as executives and legal counsel for the league and the Canadian Football League Players' Union are set to meet in Toronto Thursday and Friday for critical talks to finally find common ground on a new collective bargaining agreement.
With the two sides making little progress over the last six months, however, it appears the players' union is prepared for another deadlock.
"The (PA's strike) ballots are ready to be mailed out," said a source with knowledge of the negotiations, but who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
Sources have told TSN that the CFLPA has steadily prepared for the possibility of a strike vote for weeks, by accumulating addresses of its members, and reviewing labour laws in provinces with CFL teams.
"This is not a negotiation tactic - this is something the players feel they need to explore if no progress is made Thursday and Friday," the source said.
The CFL's current CBA ends May 29.
Talks between the league and players are poised on a tipping point because neither side can agree on functional revenue-sharing model. When the two sides met previously in Toronto weeks ago, talks eventually began leaning towards general discussion of revenue-sharing possibilities. League representatives said they would review the developments, only to return later insisting that discussions on any revenue-sharing model could go no further.
The CFL apparently has a counter-proposal prepared for the players - different from the reported $100,000 yearly salary cap increase over the life of a new eight-year CBA - but will not reveal the new bottom line unless the players abandon any revenue-sharing model.
Apart the disagreement on the feasibility of any revenue-sharing models, previous talks have stalled over the issue of financial transparency: The players have requested the CFL reveal all its numbers, but the league has remained reluctant.
"If the owners are anticipating more money and more deals over the course of a new CBA then the players would like to know what exactly (the owners) are anticipating," the source explained.
If talks hit an impasse again by the weekend, the union will prepare its members for a strike vote. Some provinces in Canada, Quebec in particular, require strike votes take place after a CBA expires. Nevertheless, the union will encourage its members, regardless of particular labour laws, to stay off the field."
"It's going to be tough to prepare for a season, unless one team is prepared to play against itself," the source added.