Tuesday November 25, 2014

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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Bad timing

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Labour disruptions in professional sports leagues are nothing new.

Fans are accustomed to lockouts in the NHL and the NBA. There was a strike or a lockout in numerous Major League Baseball labour negotiations. Even the NFL had a lockout in 2011.

But for a sports league outside of the big four to contemplate a labour disruption would be unique.

And that's the situation facing the CFL.

The CFL's collective bargaining agreement expires on June 1. The players have indicated they will strike if a new pact isn't in place. Both sides are working towards a deal, but there's no guarantee it will be finalized before the end of this month.

Nobody can accuse CFL players of being greedy. Most of these players need a job in the off-season to supplement their income during the CFL season. They play for the love of the game, and in the case of the American players, they do it while playing in another country.

They want to be adequately compensated for playing a violent sport, and who can blame them?

But this labour tiff comes at a bad time.

The CFL hasn't been this healthy in about 40 years. Younger fans might have a hard time believing that the CFL was on its death bed in the late 1980s and for much of the 1990s.

But now the league has strong leadership, healthy teams and higher revenues. Ottawa is back in the league, and they have solid ownership and a modern stadium.

A strike would hurt the league. It would shunt fan interest, especially in Ottawa. Even if it is resolved quickly, it would cut into training camp and pre-season games. And while nobody should be worried about exhibition football games, players need those games for the sake of timing, execution and conditioning.

Scrap the pre-season games, and there could be a greater risk of players getting hurt in the regular season.

The CFL is also a summer sport. If a strike is protracted, fans are going to find other things to do. "Out of sight, out of mind" syndrome sets in with most fans during labour strife; if regular season games are cancelled, fans in most markets might not embrace a non-major sports league once play resumes in July or August.

It makes no sense for the players to go on strike, or for the league to lock them out. Reach a settlement, get on the field for the start of training camp, and keep this league moving forward.

The CFL's a great game, and the league's in great shape. It'll still be a great game if there's a labour disruption; it might not be as healthy if there's a strike.  


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