Source: New deal prevents CFL from holding back off-season player bonuses

TORONTO — The tentative agreement between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association eliminates one of the most contentious issues of this off-season.

According to a league source, the deal reached early Wednesday includes language that prevents the CFL from again withholding off-season player bonuses. In 2017, the league told its member teams not to pay any off-season bonuses to players starting Jan. 1, 2019 — until a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.

The person spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been ratified.

The present deal expires Saturday.

The directive drew the obvious ire of players, many of whom receive up-front money in the form of signing, roster or report-and-pass roster bonuses as part of their contracts and actually budget for the cash. The source said the new tentative deal prevents the league from doing that again.

The tentative deal runs three years and therefore the two sides will return to the bargaining table following the 2021 season.

The tentative deal also provides players with three years of medical coverage (starting next season), up from just one year currently. In addition, it includes the return of revenue sharing, something the players gave up in 2010 and the CFL adamantly refused to budge on during the last round of bargaining in 2014.

Wednesday’s agreement calls for players to receive 20 per cent of revenues from the CFL’s broadcast deal with TSN as well as commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 initiative. The expectation is the league will announce a new Mexican TV contract in the coming weeks.

This off-season, Ambrosie secured partnerships with nine international football federations (Italy, Mexico, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland). The league also held separate Mexican and European player drafts.

Any money that come from revenue sharing will be added the CFL’s annual salary cap.

The source said the agreement also calls for CFL teams to carry one “global player” in 2019 and two next year. That would effectively boost game-day rosters to 45 this year and 46 in 2020.

As a result, the tentative agreement will include three separate roster designations — national (Canadian), international (American) and global (Mexican-European).

Also part of the agreement is a new ratio for three American starters who’ve been with a team for three seasons or have four years of combined CFL experience. The clause would prevent clubs from being able to replace the three with younger, less expensive players.

Not only does it give the American players more job security, it also helps a team build continuity. The current Canadian ratio — 21 on the game-day roster, seven of whom must be starters on offence or defence — remains the same.

Minimum salaries will also increase from $54,000 to $65,000 starting next year. That’s created a big concern among some veterans who feel they could feel the financial squeeze in 2020 but the source suggested with the cap increasing $50,000 this year and next, that $100,000 would offset most, if not all, the overall boost in minimum salaries.

The three-year term is interesting, given the two sides settled on five years in 2014. Heading into the 2022 season, the expectation is the CFL will have a new franchise operating in Halifax and the Montreal Alouettes’ muddled ownership situation should be stabilized.

Player reps were briefed about the deal Wednesday and the process of informing and educating players has begun. The expectation is a ratification vote will be held sometime next week.

However, with a tentative agreement in place, players will report for medicals Saturday and the start of training camp Sunday.

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