CFL has a new lid on it

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The Canadian Football League is entering a new era.

The league's board of governors has ratified a new salary management system, which means every team will be living under a revised salary cap this year.

"This is an extraordinary day for this league," said commissioner Tom Wright.

"We have collectively agreed on a system that will provide our fans with the assurance that each and every team can compete on a level playing field year-in and year-out."

Although the league didn't reveal specific figures last night, sources indicate it's a $3.8-million cap for player salaries for each team.

On paper, it's a huge jump from the $2.6-million cap from the 2005 season, but most believe every team ignored that cap as enforcement was non-existent. The new cap comes with compliance monitoring and enforcement, according to the CFL head office.

It's a dream scenario for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers - community-owned teams constantly fighting to stay above the poverty line, let alone compete for high-priced free agents with deep-pocketed teams in Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver.

Besides bringing cost certainty and more financial stability, the new salary system also appears to call for two additional players - one import and one non-import - for each club, bringing the roster to 42 players.

The highlights of the new system will be revealed today from the governor meetings in Arizona - but the initial news spread like wildfire across the country late last night.

"I have got absolutely no problems with (the new cap)," said Edmonton Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia from Montreal. "It makes (the league) more competitive and it means you are going to have to spend your dollars wisely.

"It means you are going to have to do your homework as far as the draft is concerned and your personnel people down south are going to have to be on the ball."

Under the old guidelines, the Eskimos were considered one of the big rollers. According to sources, the average team payroll was $3.5 million in 2005. A Toronto radio station suggested yesterday the Esks spent between $4.1-$4.3 million, however COO Rick LeLacheur didn't reveal the club's salary budget when questioned last week.

Regardless, receiver Ed Hervey doesn't believe the new cap will hurt the team: "Most players want to come here and they will take $30,000 less because Edmonton is built on winning championships. It doesn't matter how much you spend, it's how you treat people."

The new salary system will need to be approved by the CFLPA, but president Stu Laird sounded positive.

"I would say that (the $3.8-million cap) is in the range we are thinking of, but you need to see the language in the document before you can decide," he said.


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