TSN Football Insiders Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor discuss if there’s more reason to be optimistic about the possibility of a shortened season and where a potential truncated 2020 campaign could take place.
Naylor: This week we have the Players’ Association and league representatives talking about amendments to the collective bargaining agreement to prepare for a shortened 2020 season. Is there reason to be more optimistic that we’re going to see CFL football this season?
Lalji: Yeah, absolutely there’s reason to be optimistic and not only because they’re finally talking. It took a while for them to get there, but late Tuesday night, the league presented a framework basically for what it hopes a new season and a new collective bargaining agreement going forward would look like. The PA asked for some clarification and since then, they have been in regular discussions. Now, prior to this process, the PA said look, here are 15 items that we need to address in the CBA to get through this shortened season. They’re going through those, but from the league’s perspective, it’s not just about 2020. They want to make sure there’s an extension on that CBA, which is due to expire in 2021. They want to make sure they’ve got cost certainty going forward. So now they’re finally at the table at it and, based on that, there is reason to be optimistic.
Naylor: And of course, one of the biggest issues that is sure to come up between this is money. How much will players be paid if there is a 2020 season? It’s expected the players would get a prorated salary based on the number of games that are played. And that may be tied to the government ask. We know that the Canadian Football League has continued conversations with the federal government looking for aid to be able to play this season and it’s possible that aid may come directly in the form of going to the players’ salary, so it never actually goes to the owners, which may be more palatable for the government. And of course, talking about a shortened season, we’ve talked about there being a hub city and Winnipeg being the frontrunner for that. It now looks like all the focus is on Winnipeg if we do get a season after Labour Day.
Lalji: Absolutely. It’s not a done deal quite yet, but Winnipeg is the clear frontrunner and the Bombers have gone well down the road with government officials and what it would take, both logistically and medically, to house a hub in that city. They’ve also looked into hotels and made sure there was availability at the right hotels along with food, catering and they’ve got Investors Group Field as a practice venue. They’ve also got a couple of fields nearby – one indoor, one outdoor – they’ve also looked at other fields in the area, much like they would do in and around a Grey Cup. So, the Bombers definitely want this and they’re well down the road to making it happen.
Naylor: And of course, there’s going to have to be negotiations with the province and other partners to make this happen. And for that reason, the league is keeping the door open on other possibilities. There have been conversations about a Burlington/Hamilton-area hub. The Ontario Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod confirmed that this week. There have been conversations with governments in Saskatchewan, as well, city and province about the possibility. But more high-level talks that would become, I think, more intense if they aren’t able to get a deal done in Winnipeg.
Lalji: And now finally we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel because the players in their memo to membership said that late July was their target to get this thing done. And if it does take until late July, it probably takes a Labour Day start off the table. We’re looking at more like mid-to-late September to get games finally going.