Dan Ferrone used to see it all the time when he was president of the CFL Players’ Association.
But just because the Canadian Football League has tried to assert the idea of decreasing the number of starting Canadians as a negotiating ploy in the past, and is said to be doing so again in negotiations with the CFLPA toward a new collective bargaining agreement, doesn’t make it right.
“We always made it known it was not open to negotiation,” said Ferrone, who was in charge of the CFLPA from 1993 to 2001 and oversaw many bargaining sessions. “We knew it was not something that would lead to a strike or a lockout. It’s a political football the owners have to handle carefully.”
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon isn’t talking about the issue.
A reporter who contacted the CFL with an interview request for Cohon was directed to the statement released by the league last Friday, which acknowledged only that the league and CFLPA were in the midst of the collective bargaining process.
The statement also said the goal was a negotiated settlement that’s in the best interest “of our fans, our players, member clubs and our league.”
Then the league can’t be serious about dropping to four Canadian starters from seven. Doing so wouldn’t be in the best interest of the fans.
It rings hollow for an outfit that has proudly displayed the motto “This is our league.” Fans were invited earlier this year to have input on rule changes, but apparently when it comes to a change that would actually have big ramifications for the game they love, they’re left in the dark.
A handful of fans have e-mailed Sun Media to say they would consider cancelling season tickets if the CFL was serious about taking an axe to Canadian content.
Ferrone, an Oakville native who played 190 games in an Argonauts uniform and one season for the Calgary Stampeders, figures that if the league had its way, every man would have to fight for himself, regardless of nationality.
“Without question,” Ferrone said. “The whole crux of Canadian content is money. As they eliminate more and more Canadians, it will get cheaper to sign other players. The owners have etched away at it, diluted it brick-by-brick over the years.”
If it came to a point where the players caved on the issue, something Ferrone does not envision, it would be only a matter of time before there were no guarantees for Canadian-born players in a league that has only Canada-based teams.
The argument has been made that the issue should be nowhere near the table, negotiating ploy or not.
Peter Martin, whose eight-year career with the Argos ended in 1972, sees it that way.
“I’m disgusted it’s even on the table,” Martin said. “Why throw a contentious issue there? Do they really want to lock the players out? I’m really opposed to it. I think it’s ridiculous.”