TORONTO — B.C. Lions kicker Paul McCallum is looking forward to turning his attention back to football.
The CFL’s labour dispute officially ended Friday when the CFL board of governors ratified the tentative agreement reached last weekend. The CFL Players’ Association accepted the five-year deal Thursday.
The agreement ends a contentious, sometimes bitter four-month negotiation that had CFL players on the brink of a strike.
While the 44-year-old McCallum, the Lions player rep and the league’s oldest active player, was critical of the agreement, he’s happy to have a resolution.
“It’s a relief,” he said during a telephone interview Friday. “I didn’t think it was going to be as much of a distraction as it turned out to be at the end. It’s much better now for the players. It’s over with, we can concentrate on practising and not if we’re going to play so it’s a positive.”
There were plenty of other players who complained publicly about the deal, which includes a $5-million salary cap the first year, more than $1 million less than the union initially wanted but a $600,000 increase over last season.
“It’s definitely a lot of stress off my shoulders,” defensive back Eric Fraser, the Ottawa Redblacks’ player rep, said of the deal being finalized. “It’s good to finally get the vote done and let the players’ voice be heard and get on with playing football.”
Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris, affectionately known as Smilin’ Hank, said he now has another reason to smile.
“For me, I just try to stay busy just so whatever the situation was coming to was going to be what it was,” Burris said. “But once I heard the news, it definitely put a smile on my face.”
The CFLPA didn’t provide a breakdown of votes. A majority of players — 50 per cent plus one — on at least six clubs had to vote in favour of the deal for it to be accepted.
“I know exactly all the figures and I’m not going to tell you,” McCallum said. “We can sit there and talk about shoulda, coulda, woulda . . . but at the end of the day it’s over so we just have to put it behind us. All the guys agreed to take it so I guess that speaks volumes.”
With an agreement in place, the 2014 regular season will kick off June 26 as scheduled. The deal runs through May 15, 2019, or the first day of training camp that year.
But if the combined revenues of the nine teams — excluding the Grey Cup — increase by more than $27 million in any year of the agreement, both sides will renegotiate a boost in the cap starting in the 2016 season.
The contract also changes player classifications from non-imports and imports to nationals and internationals. To be considered a national, the player must be a Canadian citizen when he signed his first contract, classified as a non-import before May 31, 2014, or have lived in Canada for five years before turning 18.