TSN Football Insiders Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor discuss the latest with the CFL’s current economic situation amid COVID-19, what the dialogue is like between the league and the players as well as what the CFL could look like beyond this season, if there even is one.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie sent a letter to fans and players outlining the current situation around the CFL’s attempted return to play. He continues to meet with various levels of federal and provincial governments. What’s the latest on the players and the league as far as conversations?

Naylor: Well the league’s player relations committee has reached out to the Players’ Association to invite them to begin formal bargaining about the 2020 and 2021 CFL seasons. Now, in terms of 2020, this is going to involve, we expect, some harsh realities. Things like prorated salaries. Like the fact that players may have to enter a bubble in a hub for most or perhaps even all of the season. So, these are issues that are going to come up in the short term. In the longer term, I think they’re going to talk about things to try and stabilize and make sure that this league is economically viable beyond this season as it continues with the conditions of COVID-19.

Lalji: I think the players are already upset entering these negotiations. They had a survey that was sent out by the PA to all of its members. And there was some major pushback on areas such as prorated salaries and shorter work weeks. Coupled with the fact that they’ve already got a grievance in place because the league has withheld its June 1 roster bonuses and when they found out this morning that government discussions were happening without them they said wait a minute, the last time this happened, it was clear they were given assurances by the league that this wouldn’t happen again without player involvement. It’s happened. They’re not happy about it.

Naylor: Well, in terms of where this is going on the possibility of playing, we’ve talked, Farhan, for weeks now about various models the league has studied. It seems like they are closing in on finalizing a picture to go with one or two hub cities. And these would be hub cities that teams and players would have to enter and be in perhaps for the entire course of the season. Certainly for the start of a season. And that’s going to mean tough things for the players to accept and I think there are also some teams in the league that are not necessarily convinced that this is viable. So, the first thing the league is going to have to do is get consensus around the table with its own teams and then try to follow that up by presenting this vision to the players.

Lalji: As far as the players are concerned, I can tell you right now that there are some high-profile players in the league that have already made the decision to move on and pursue other opportunities. At least for this season. Just so much uncertainty about what lies ahead. They’ve got to provide for their families and when you look at the possibility of leaving those families for three months entering into a hub for a fraction of their existing salaries, there are some that are going to say thanks, but no thanks.

Naylor: Some more tough news in the CFL this week. The football operations cap, which is everything from general managers and scouts right down to coaches, will be down by 20 per cent in 2021. And this is, I think, part of an overall belt tightening we’re going to see across the CFL. I mean, the commissioner has taken a cut, we know that there is going to be a 20 per cent reduction in business operations for teams and for team presidents up to 30 per cent. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out this is eventually going to land on the players as well. I would expect that for 2021, I’d be stunned if they aren’t facing something like a 20 per cent pay cut as well in terms what of the salary cap will be for next season.

Lalji: But it won’t be that simple because unlike the coaches, there’s a player union. They’ve got the opportunity to collectively bargain this even though the dynamics around that will be a little bit different. But I can say this, I don’t think at any point during this pandemic has it ever been this dire about playing in 2020.