For the first time since 1974, the CFL is looking at a player’s strike. Late on Saturday night, the CFLPA sent a memo to its players to initiate a strike in seven of the nine cities, with Edmonton and Calgary being the exceptions, thanks to labour laws that only leave them in a legal strike position on May 18th.
Regardless of who you think is at fault, be it the owners, the players, or the commissioner, that’s not what’s important. What is important now, is that the strike helps no one, but it’s not hurting everyone equally. There are levels to the strike, and it goes beyond the players and owners. It includes the fans, of course, but it also hurts those who work for the teams, and those who get a few extra hours of work each week at the various stadiums across Canada.
From the owners, to the players, to the people running the team’s social media accounts, to the custodians charged with cleaning up the stadium after the game, everyone is going to feel this strike, especially if it is prolonged.
Starting with the owners, it’s no secret that not playing football costs them money. The Edmonton Elks, for example, reported a loss of $1.1 million in 2021 during the shortened 14-game regular season. This loss was nowhere near as catastrophic as their losses during the missed 2020 season, where they reportedly lost $7.1 million. In 2019, the Elks lost $1.1 million again, but most of that was the $950,000 they sent to the ownerless Montreal Alouettes. Without that, their losses would have been closer to $150,000. In 2018, the Elks made money, pulling in $2.8 million in revenue.
The trend is obvious. Missing games is bad news for the owners, and while there might not be much sympathy for millionaires when they lose a couple hundred thousand over the course of the season, those losses tend to get passed down to players, and subsequently, the fans as well. Clearly, missed games hurt the owners.
For the players, not playing games means they aren’t getting paid. In the 2021 season, player salaries were prorated to 14/18ths to align with the number of games played, meaning that a player who was scheduled to make $100,000, for example, would only make about $78,000. Additionally, some players have bonuses that they may not get until they report, and if there is no season, they may not get that bonus money at all.
Without that money hitting the bank accounts, it could have massive negative impacts for some players, particularly those who are earning league-minimum salaries. If they have families, there could be pressure to find alternative sources of income to support them. Regardless of each individual’s personal situation, missing out on a paycheque is hard for anyone, especially after four of five months without one.
For both the players and owners, however, there is a reason to fight for a good deal. If a strike helps the players get a better deal, that’s great for them. If the league gets the better deal because of the strike, that’s great for them. The real losers during a strike, however, will always be the fans.
The fans, who spend their hard-earned money on going to games, buying merchandise, and dedicate parts of their lives to loving a franchise and its players, are the ones who lose during a strike. For the fans, there is no winning in this situation. All they want to see is football being played, and every day that isn’t happening, it’s bad news for the fans.
You can only hope that this strike doesn’t take long, because if it does, we could see teams act as they did during the pandemic, and begin laying off some of their staff. According to a tweet from Farhan Lalji, however, it seems like this could be a short process, and we could see football soon. Lalji Tweeted that a source told him “we’re not that far apart.”
No one wants to see the players get ripped off, and everyone understands that the owners are going to do what they can to make sure they get a favourable deal, but what fans won’t stand for is being forced to sit waiting while both the CFL and the CFLPA blame each other for the strike, while doing nothing to solve it. All anyone wants to see is both parties locked in a room and forced to negotiate until there is an agreement, and that should be getting started in short order.
This strike hurts everyone, but the people who support the CFL through thick and thin are getting the worst end of this deal.
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