The Saskatchewan Roughriders cancelled Day 1 of training camp in Saskatoon on Sunday after the CFL Players’ Association (CFLPA) bargaining committee told players with seven of the league’s nine clubs not to report to training camp.
Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are ongoing after the current one expired at midnight Saturday.
The Roughriders said an announcement would be made about future practices. The team’s training camp was scheduled to run from May 15 to June 3.
“This is one of those classic examples of ‘only in the CFL, here they go again.’ It’s just absolutely mind-boggling,” said Rob Vanstone, sports editor for Regina Leader Post.
Vanstone said he doesn’t blame the players for the stance they’re taking.
“I think that management, the league went into the negotiations with a sense of complacency, thinking ultimately that the players would just capitulate and just take whatever was given to them on the weekend as the expiration of the CBA loomed and obviously they haven’t done that and bravo to the players for doing it.”
On Sunday, some members of the team got a workout in outside Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon.
The CFL lost its entire season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had a shortened one in 2021.
Roughrider fans are disappointed by the news.
“A lot of us have been looking forward to getting back to normal and getting back to sports and the longer that there’s delays the less interested some people are,” Sarah Sliva said.
Some fans also expressed a level of understanding for the position that players are in.
“As a fan you’d like to see them out there and not miss any time but you totally understand that the players are in a position where they feel as though they are bargaining for a good deal, so you try to keep it in perspective and hope that the season gets started on time,” Joe Lamey said.
Vanstone believes the players have more leverage than they’ve ever had in negotiations, which have caused the first work stoppage since 1974.
Issues reportedly on the table include the salary cap, the number of padded practices and the length of the new agreement.
“Ultimately it always comes down to money. You can resolve the non-monetary issues probably in one session but ultimately it’s about division of revenue or anticipated revenue,” Vanstone said.
Other teams that formally cancelled practice on Sunday include the Montreal Alouettes, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Toronto Argonauts. It’s unclear when the CFL and CFLPA will resume negotiations.
Fans and other stakeholders across the league are hopeful that at this time next week, CBA talks are in the rear view mirror. Vanstone thinks this could be the case.
“If they want to get a deal that is more favourable for them than what is currently on the table, I think all they have to do is wait until Tuesday, maybe even Monday,” Vanstone said.
“And suddenly there is beads of sweat forming and knees are getting a little shaky because I think the league went into this not at all prepared for what the players have done.”
— With files from The Canadian Press, and Global News’ Matthew Rodrigopulle and Kelly Skjerven