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TORONTO — The Canadian Football League charges into the 2010 season under a new four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that revamps the league’s business model, increases player compensation and introduces year- round testing for performance enhancing drugs.
Now ratified by the league’s players and its Board of Governors, the terms of the agreement were revealed today at a joint news conference hosted by representatives of the CFL and the Canadian Football League Players’ Association.
“This CBA represents a major step forward for our league, and it is a testament to the spirit of partnership that exists between the CFL and the CFLPA, a partnership that flows out of a shared passion for our game and commitment to our fans,” said Mark Cohon, Commissioner of the CFL.
CFLPA President Stu Laird said the agreement represents progress for both sides and a renewed spirit of co-operation.
“We’re moving forward together under an agreement that helps our players and helps our league,” Laird said.
The agreement replaces the provision that had required the league to devote at least 56 per cent of defined gross revenue to players’ salaries with negotiated minimum team salary and annual increases in the salary cap.
This change allows CFL teams to retain incremental revenues as they build their franchises, and it ensures players that the salary cap will grow, at a minimum, from $4.2 million in 2009 to $4.4 million in 2013. Teams will continue to share audited financial statements with the players’ association.
As well, the minimum player salary grows from $41,000 in 2009 to $45,000 in 2013 and the teams’ annual pension contribution grows from $3,200 per player in 2009 to $3,600 in 2013. There are also improvements to insurance benefits for players.
“This agreement provides for increases in salary and benefits for our players, while replacing the model for player compensation with one that establishes reasonable, fixed costs,” said Michael Copeland, Chief Operating Officer of the CFL and a member of the league’s bargaining committee.
“That represents a much stronger business model for our teams, one that lays a very strong foundation.”
For the first time, the Canadian Football League has a drug testing policy. The agreement introduces year round testing that targets performance enhancing drugs, tests blood as well as urine to capture a wider range of drugs with increased accuracy, and assigns sample collection and testing to an independent agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, that uses an independent lab employing the latest techniques and equipment compliant with standards set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The drug testing policy strives to do the right things in the right order: it starts with an education program for all players in 2010, designed to prevent the use of performance enhancing drugs in the first place.
Random testing begins in 2011, with 25 per cent of all players tested that year, and 35 per cent to be tested in 2012 and 2013.
Upon a first offence, a player is automatically subjected to mandatory testing and an assessment, followed by counselling, with the goal of working with the player to change his behaviour.
A second offence triggers a three game suspension, a third offence a one year suspension, and a fourth offence a lifetime ban.
Independent of the drug policy contained in the CBA, the CFL has also entered into a separate agreement with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to help fund the testing of the top 80 Canadian Interuniversity Sport prospects for that year’s CFL Evaluation Camp and CFL Canadian Draft.
The new CBA includes provisions to give CFL teams a head start on pre-season preparations. It allows for voluntary, non-contact, off-season workouts lasting up to three days in duration between February 1 and April 30, and an opportunity for all quarterbacks to voluntarily report to training camp on the Monday before the commencement of camp for all players.
The agreement phases out, over the next two years, the so-called NFL option window. But the Canadian Football League will continue to be one of the only professional sports leagues with true free agency when a player has played out his full contract.
There is no change to the designated import rule. Nor does the CBA include any provision that reduces the league’s Canadian content. In fact, it includes a provision for two additional undrafted, non-import players and non-import quarterbacks to attend training camp without counting towards teams’ roster limits.
The agreement does expand the definition of a non-import to include Canadian citizens who were resident in Canada for an aggregate period of five years prior to the age of 18, in addition to non-Canadian citizens who were resident in Canada for an aggregate period of seven years prior to the age of 15.
“On behalf of our fans across Canada, I want to thank the members of the bargaining committees on both sides, as well as our players and league governors , for treating this important process with a great deal of respect and integrity,” Cohon said.
“I know for our fans, the best news of all is the 2010 CFL Regular season will start as scheduled this Thursday, Canada Day. And I know our teams and our players join them in saying: ‘We can’t wait for kickoff.’”
More details are available in the backgrounders linked at the bottom of this release.