Capping CFL Coaches a Smokescreen for CBA

Commish Getting Out Front of Collective Bargaining Issue

The CFLs decision to cap the salaries of football operations staff is much ado about nothing.

The CFLPA has been incensed for years while watching the big money roll in from TSN TV contracts and record coaches salaries, all the while accepting modest pay increases in the salary cap for its members who do the heavy lifting on the field.

Can you blame them?

CFL Coaches and Salaries to Be Capped?

Players are the ones who fans come to see, whose jerseys they pay for and who suffer life-altering injuries just to play the game they love.

The players are the product.

It was all fine and dandy to ask performers to take a pay cut in the 90’s when teams were folding, franchises were going bankrupt and owners were throwing the keys on the table. That was a crisis and everyone knew they had to sacrifice in order to keep the league afloat.

But not anymore. This is different

Owners Cannot Cry Poor Anymore

CFL General Managers and Head Coaches have raked in enough dough since the mid-part of the decade that a Head Coach-GM combo in some cases will earn more than a team’s entire starting defense.

It’s a staggering thought but one that has benefitted the league in drawing a record number of ex-NFL head coaches north.

This has given the league a bigger profile and credibility with even it’s local fan base.

And its even helped recruit some star talent too. See Johnny Manziel playing for June Jones in Hamilton as part of the same league where former Texas A & M head coach Mike Sherman coaches and just so happened to be the same Mike Sherman who convinced Johnny Football to go to A & M in the first place.

There are benefits galore to having well-paid head coaches.

But once you starting throwing around those gobs of dough, how can any owner legitimately look any of his American starters in the eye and tell them they are only worth maybe 10% of what their head coach makes?

Should Chris Jones really be paid close to double of what his starting quarterback will make in 2018?

League Hopes to Gain Leverage 

It’s no secret there are doubts among the league brass that 2019 will go off without a hitch.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires not long after this November’s Grey Cup in Edmonton and both the owners and players will need to hammer out a new deal.

It would have been a perilous position for the Commissioner to explain to his counterparts across the table why their members don’t deserve a significant raise to the salary cup while the member clubs ‘make it rain’ for their head coaches.

Coaching staffs have skyrocketed since the millennium too.

It wasn’t all that long ago only 5 or 6 assistants would do. Sometimes the Offensive Co-ordinator would have to double as the running backs coach but hey it was a small price to pay in order live the dream of being a pro football coach.

Still beats working a 9-5 job, right?

Today, it isn’t at all uncommon for a coaching staff to be in the double digits.

Enforcement Virtually Impossible

I asked the CFL Commissioner on Tuesday’s edition of Rider Radio 620 CKRM’s ‘The Sportscage’ if he expects he’ll be able to prove any teams who try to violate any such cap.

He admitted there would have to be some “honor” among the teams to follow the rules.

The 9 franchises are expected to effectively ‘play nice in the sandbox’.

I’m not sure that has ever worked in professional sport.

Real Solution

Rather than getting into a spat with the coaches, many of whom are ex-union members, the CFLPA would be better off picking its battles with the owners by taking aim at the windfall sitting in the Saskatchewan Roughriders bank account.

Pro sports teams don’t like to open their books and usually don’t.

The community-owned teams like the Riders have no choice. And their books paint a rosy picture.

If the owners cry poor, the union should demand revenue sharing.

People in Saskatchewan won’t like it. They’ve fought this war with the federal government for generations.

But the reality is the Toronto Argonauts contributed mightily to an equalization fund in the late 70’s and early 80’s which helped prop teams like Saskatchewan up.

Now the cleat is on the other foot.

Without teams like the Argos, Alouettes, and B.C. Lions there would be no rich TV contract from TSN or any other network.

And without that, there would be no league and no Roughriders to speak of.

This issue of capping salaries for coaches and scouts will enrage its share of front office personnel around the CFL.

But make no mistake about it, this has little to do with them and everything to do with the battle in the boardroom over the CBA which threatens to create the first work stoppage in Canadian professional football in nearly 50 years.



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