From sportsnet.ca's Perry Lefko
The Canadian Football League and the Players' Association are headed for a showdown that could lead to a work stoppage and delay the start of the 2010 season.
One source speculated that the players may face a lockout.
The two sides have been working on a new collective bargaining agreement, but sportsnet.ca has learned talks have broken off in their efforts to get a new agreement and are not likely to resume until training camp begins in June, when the current deal expires.
The regular season is scheduled to begin July 1.
At issue is the percentage the players receive from the revenues taken in by the league. The split in the previous CBA had the players receiving a minimum of 56 per cent of the league revenues. If the salary cap, currently based at $4.20 million, does not meet the 56 per cent financial threshhold, the league must write a cheque to the players to make up the difference based on what is defined as a fail-safe provision.
However, the CFL is trying to change that by eliminating the current percentages, thus controlling the cap and dispensing with the fail-safe proviso.
The league had been enjoying some financial growth in recent years allowing increases in the cap, but that didn't happen for this season, which may be attributable to declining sources of revenues. The CFL, similar to many businesses, felt the financial pinch last year as advertisers clawed back. The greatest single stream of revenues for the league comes from TV, which annually yields about $15 million under the current deal that will expire after next season.
Stu Laird, CFLPA president, declined to comment on the status of negotiations. A CFL spokesman said Cohon would not comment do to the agreement with the CFLPA to not discuss negotiations publicly.
The declining revenues have exacerbated the costs of operating franchises in Hamilton and Toronto franchises, both of which are bleeding money in comparison to the other six franchises.
The CFL hired a law firm with expertise dealing with labour strife involving major sport leagues. The lead lawyer that is negotiating for the CFL worked for the NHL in its battle with the NHLPA, which led to a lockout in 2004-05.
While there had been considerable attention at last year's Grey Cup drawn to the possibility of the CFL reducing the number of starting Canadians from seven to four -- an issue that commissioner Mark Cohon addressed by repeatedly saying, "We understand the importance of Canadians."