The CFL and its players are going into overtime in their collective bargaining talks.
After spending more than 12 hours in meetings together and separately Wednesday, the two sides agreed to reconvene Thursday at an airport hotel.
"It has been a long day of meetings," CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said. "We’re going to resume (Thursday) morning, which is a good thing."
It’s certainly a far cry from what happened the last time the CFL and its players met. On May 21, they gathered for roughly 10 minutes as the league informed the CFL Players’ Association it was rejecting its latest offer before going public with the details of its last proposal to the union.
But there was no quick end to Wednesday’s session. The league and players held multiple face-to-face sessions but also spent a lot of time separately, with a conciliation officer being seen going from one party to the other.
It was the first time that news of a conciliation officer being involved in talks surfaced. Also, Cohon attended the sessions with the CFL’s bargaining unit, which also consisted of chief operation officer Michael Copeland, Saskatchewan Roughriders president Jim Hopson, Calgary Stampeders president Ken King, and CFL legal counsel Steve Shamie.
The CFLPA’s negotiating team was made up of president Scott Flory, vice-presidents Marwan Hage and Jeff Keeping, treasurer Brian Ramsay and legal counsel Ed Molstad.
The CFL’s current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight ET on Thursday. Flory has said the players won’t suit up under the terms of the existing deal, meaning the two sides would either have to reach a new contract or at least be close for training camps to open on time Sunday.
The league and players met Wednesday morning but spent the bulk of the afternoon apart before resuming face-to-face talks later in the evening. That session ended after roughly an hour, with the CFL committee leaving for an alternate location. At one point, the conciliation officer and Shamie both could be seen walking towards the union’s meeting room, but the league lawyer left shortly afterwards.
Revenue sharing is the main stumbling block in the negotiations, with the players wanting it back to help determine the salary cap each year. The CFLPA had revenue sharing in previous agreements but gave it up in the last deal signed before the 2010 season.
Cohon has said the league won’t agree to revenue sharing because it doesn’t have sufficient revenues and profits for the model to work effectively.
After decades of financial woes, the CFL is enjoying economic prosperity.
It has a new contract extension with athletic apparel giant Reebok. One of its teams (Winnipeg) moved into a new stadium last season and another (Hamilton) is scheduled to do so this year, the same time expansion Ottawa will return and play at a refurbished facility.
And with attendance continuing to rise and corporate sponsorships remaining strong, the CFL is buoyed by a lucrative five-year television agreement with TSN, reportedly worth an average of $42 million annually, that kicks in this season.
That deal alone will reportedly net clubs an extra $2.7 million each this season.
There has been one players’ strike since the formation of the CFLPA in 1965. It came in ’74 and lasted three weeks during training camp before a three-year agreement was signed with no regular-season games lost.
The ’14 regular season is scheduled to open June 26.
The league has offered to boost the average player salary by 12 per cent this season to $92,917 with a further increase over the following five years. The salary cap would increase by nine per cent from $4.4 million to $4.8 million per team while the average salary would go up $5,000 to $50,000 with a further increase to $55,000 over the following five years.
The salary cap would also rise by $100,000 per team if the CFL receives more television revenue from TSN under a renegotiated broadcast agreement for each remaining year of the collective bargaining agreement.
The CFLPA, which contends the average player stipend is just under $72,000, is asking for a $6.24-million cap, with a $5.84-million minimum. The ’15 cap would be determined from the gross average revenue of seven clubs — excluding the top and lowest-grossing franchises.
The proposal also requested 55 per cent of gross revenues from TV rights, pay TV rights, radio, Internet and any other form of broadcast or telecast of CFL games, 45 per cent of revenues from sponsorship and licensing and 40 per cent of tickets to pre-season and regular-season games, including the sale of luxury boxes, licenses and any other revenue related to the public attending at games.