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While three-quarters of the National Football League teams are participating in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) right now, players in the Canadian Football League are dealing with some serious business.

Unfortunately, that business is not taking place on the gridiron.

With the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players expiring on Thursday and training camps set to open June 1, there is a genuine fear that the 2014 season could fall victim to a strike.

And the labor strife is being played out in a very public way.

The league itself has unveiled its offer on the CFL website, telling fans in a letter that it rejected the players' demands and outlined its own "full and comprehensive" plan.

The CFLPA was not amused.

"It's unfortunate it's come to this," CFLPA President Scott Flory said during a Wednesday news conference. "It's not about the money. It's about supporting a structure that everyone supports. (CFL commissioner Mark Cohon) has not been in one negotiating meeting with us. I want to make that clear. This was an orchestrated attack and we feel ambushed about what happened today.

" We are not trying to disrupt this league. We have all negotiated in good faith. We know this affects a lot of people. Our players understand that."

The primary sticking point is revenue sharing.

The players want in on the cut while Cohon says that isn't a possibility.

"It might work for a league that has hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and billions of dollars in revenue to share," Cohon told the Toronto Star. "With our league it doesn't work and that's why we've put together a proposal that's fair for the players."

And the players are also balking at a proposed $4.8 million salary cap, saying it would have to be tied into revenue sharing to be fair.

For those of us who follow the NFL it's mind-boggling to consider the financial differences between the two leagues.

The average salary for a CFL player is $82,000 per year, (although the league has agreed to raise the average to $93,000 if the CFLPA signs off on its proposal).

In the NFL, the average salary is approximately $1.9 million annually and a minimum salary for a rookie is $375,000. That's more than many CFL starting quarterbacks make.

Under the current CBA the CFL salary cap is $4.4 million per club.

In the NFL, that figure is $133 million.

One is a 32-franchise juggernaut that is arguably the most successful professional sports league on the planet, while the other sits at nine teams with its popularity largely confined to Canadian audiences.

Even then, attendance is modest when placed alongside NFL numbers.

In 2013 the CFL averaged 27,000 fans per game while an NFL stadium pulled in 67,000 per contest. In fact, the Oakland Raiders had the league's lowest average attendance figures in 2013 and still eclipsed the 50,000 mark.

And TV revenue?

The CFL makes $42 million annually from its broadcast partners.

Beginning this fall and running through 2022, the NFL will earn $39.6 billion in television revenue.

So if you look at it that way, comparing the NFL to the CFL is an apple vs. orange proposition.

One thing common among all sports leagues, however, is the chasm that often exists between players and owners.

And with no progress on either side in the Canadian Football League, one wonders if training camps - and the 2014 season - will open on time.


May 28, 2014


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