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CFL Players’ Association ratifies new contract with CFL

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By Dan Ralph

The CFL Players’ Association ratified its new collective bargaining agreement with the CFL on Thursday night.

The CFLPA made the announcement via email. The players’ vote came hours after the two sides hammered out a seven-year tentative agreement.

The ratification came two days after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie unveiled the league’s final offer to its players.

The deal must also be ratified by the CFL board of governors, but that’s not expected to be an issue. With the players accepting the agreement, the league’s exhibition season will open on time Friday night.

“We are pleased that players have now ratified a new collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and CFLPA,” Ambrosie said in a statement. “The CFL’s board of governors will conduct its ratification vote shortly.

“We look forward to a successful season — including pre-season games this weekend — and a long and productive partnership with our players.”

The CFLPA didn’t provide overall voting results. Players on six of the nine CFL teams had to accept the deal for it be ratified, with the required margin being at least 50 per cent plus one of ballots in favour.

On Monday, the players voted against a tentative deal that the union had recommended they accept. The CFLPA also recommended the ratification of Thursday’s tentative agreement.

According to sources, CFL teams will have seven Canadian starters and 21 in total on rosters this year. In 2023, that number increases to eight with one being a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in the CFL or at least three with the same team.

Clubs will also be able to rotate two nationalized Canadians for up to 49 per cent of snaps. Teams can move to three nationalized Canadians in 2024 but the two franchises that play the most Canadians at the end of the season will receive additional second-round draft picks.

And the seven pure Canadian starters per game will remain intact throughout the term of deal, which can be reopened after five years when the CFL’s broadcast agreement with TSN expires.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the league nor union have provided specific details of the new agreement.

The sources also said the CFL will provide $1.225 million in a ratification pool for players. The salary cap this year will remain at $5.35 million and increase to $5.51 million in 2023. It will be $5.99 million in 2028.

Minimum salaries for global, national (Canadian) and American players will be consistent. The figure will increase from $65,000 to $70,000 next year and $75,000 in 2027.

The maximum housing allowance this year will be $2,300 monthly for six months. The CFL and CFLPA agree to an annual review to determine the maximum housing allowance number for the next season.

In return, the CFL receives extended labour peace and the opportunity of time to really rebuild its business. The league didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — reportedly losing between $60 and $80 million — and held a shortened 14-game campaign last year.

Last December, the league announced a partnership with Genius Sports, a data, technology and commercial company that connects sports, betting and media. In August 2021, the CFL signed a multi-year partnership with BetRegal to become its official online sports-gaming partner.

Last month, the single-game sports betting industry opened fully in Ontario.

But Canadian Justin Palardy, a former kicker who spent time with five CFL teams from 2010-15, took to social media to voice his displeasure with the deal.

“Like I said on another tweet, what’s the point of drafting more (Canadians) if we’re getting rid of Canadian starters?” he tweeted. “You may think it’s a terrific idea, doesn’t mean it makes sense.”

Defensive lineman/linebacker Shomari Williams, who went first overall in the 2010 CFL draft to Saskatchewan and played with four teams over six pro seasons (2010-15) also wasn’t impressed.

“I feel the CFLPA main objective for (Canadian) members is to NOT diminish the roles of (Canadian) players in the CFL,” he tweeted. “How do you bring this to your (Canadian) members after they voted no and have the confidence you will be re-elected?”

The two sides had been at odds regarding the Canadian ratio.

Last Wednesday, the CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative seven-year agreement, ending a four-day strike by seven of the league’s nine teams. At first glance, there seemed to be many positives for the players, including a revenue-sharing model, the ability to reopen the pact in five years once the CFL signed a new broadcast deal, and veteran players having the ability to negotiate partially guaranteed contracts.

But the agreement also called for CFL teams to increase the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight. The extra would’ve also been a nationalized Canadian.

In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of snaps. And the deal didn’t include a ratification bonus.

On Tuesday, Ambrosie unveiled an amended proposal that included a $1-million ratification pool and the abolition of the three nationalized Canadians playing 49 per cent of snaps. However, it also reduced the number of Canadian starters to seven, including one nationalized Canadian.

Not only did Ambrosie say it was the CFL’s final offer, but it was good until midnight ET on Thursday, given the league’s exhibition schedule was slated to begin Friday night with two games. Ambrosie added if the players rejected the offer and opted to go back on strike, they’d be served notice to vacate their respective training-camp facilities.

It marked the second time Ambrosie had gone public with a final contract offer to the CFLPA. On May 14, he posted a letter to fans on the league’s website detailing the league’s proposal to players hours before the former CBA was set to expire.

The next day, players on seven CFL teams opted against reporting to training camp and went on strike. The Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders both opened camp as schedule because they weren’t in a legal strike position, as per provincial labour laws, at the time.

It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

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Blue Jays deal with 2 losses to Rays, off-field personal matters

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TORONTO — Back-to-back losses in a doubleheader paled in comparison to off-field concerns for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Francisco Mejia had a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo shot in the fifth to lead Tampa Bay to an 11-5 rout of the Blue Jays hours after Isaac Paredes and Wander Franco each had a solo home run as the Rays won the first game 6-2.

Toronto first base coach Mark Budzinski left the second game early, with manager Charlie Montoyo repeatedly leaving the dugout for the clubhouse during the game. Bench coach John Schneider filled in as manager during Montoyo’s brief absences.

The Blue Jays closed their clubhouse after the game and cancelled their post-game media availabilities.

“As many of you are aware, Mark Budzinski left early in the game tonight,” read a statement from the team. “He is dealing with a personal matter and Charlie and our coaches are with him.

“Out of consideration for Bud, we ask that you please respect his privacy at this time. Thank you.”

The Blue Jays also had a scary moment in the second inning of the first game when starting pitcher Kevin Gausman took a sharply hit ball off of his right ankle.

He lay prone on the turf in front of the mound as catcher Gabriel Moreno completed the play. After the out trainers came to examine Gausman on the field before helping him to the clubhouse.

His X-rays came back negative and Montoyo said between the games that the pitcher had a contusion.

“Just like everybody else, I was hoping that it wasn’t anything worse than a contusion and that’s what had happened and that’s good news,” said Montoyo, who said Gausman would be considered day-to-day.

Paredes added a three-run homer and an RBI double in the late game as Tampa (42-36) earned back-to-back wins.

Starter Drew Rasmussen allowed two runs — one earned — on five hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Dusten Knight allowed three runs over 2 1/3 innings and Ralph Garza Jr. earned the win, pitching scoreless ball the rest of the way.

Bradley Zimmer had a two-run homer for Toronto (44-35) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. added a solo bomb.

Thomas Hatch (0-1) coughed up 10 runs on 12 hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. Matt Gage, Sergio Romo, Tim Mayza and Adam Cimber came on in relief, with Gage allowing a run.

Tampa had lost four straight heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, including losses in Toronto on Thursday and Friday.

“That was an exciting day. We had to find a way to bounce back, we did,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It kind of all came together for us through the course of a long day.

“It’s tough to win both games of a doubleheader, so really proud and impressed with the guys.”

EXTRA HELP — Casey Lawrence was recalled from triple-A as the 27th man for both games of the doubleheader. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief in Saturday’s first game, allowing six runs to take the loss. Relief pitcher Max Castillo was sent down to triple-A between games to make space for Hatch on Toronto’s roster.

PIRATES TRADE — The Blue Jays announced a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda during the first game of the doubleheader. Toronto sent cash considerations to Pittsburgh in return. Righty Julian Merryweather was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

UP NEXT — Ross Stripling (4-2) will start for Toronto in the finale of the rare five-game series against Tampa Bay. Shane Baz (0-1) will take the mound for the Rays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman pulled from second inning with injured ankle

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Toronto – Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman suffered a right-ankle contusion after being hit by a comebacker in the first game of Toronto’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The team said X-rays of Gausman’s ankle came back negative.

Tampa shortstop Wander Franco hit a comebacker to Gausman in the second inning, with the ball bouncing off the turf and into the pitcher’s right ankle.

Gausman tried to field the ball, but instead fell to his stomach on the Rogers Centre turf.

Toronto catcher Gabriel Moreno completed the play and threw Diaz out at first, with Gausman still lying prone nearby.

Trainers attended to Gausman and helped him off the field as the inning ended.

Right-hander Casey Lawrence, who had been called up from triple-A Buffalo as Toronto’s 27th player for the doubleheader, took over pitching duties in the third inning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

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