Player safety also at issue in CFL negotiations

Mark Cohon (Liam Richards/CP)

As collective bargaining moves ever closer to the eleventh hour between the CFL owners and the league’s player association, revenue sharing and salaries are not the only contentious issues between the sides.

According to documents obtained by Sportsnet this week, the players union is proposing four new clauses be added to the league’s CBA, focused on player safety and concussions–the hot-button topic in football on both sides of the border.

1. To make it mandatory for each team to have an independent neurologist on the sidelines for all games.

2. For players to be able to obtain a second opinion from a medical doctor of the players’ choice, in relation to the condition of their health after an injury.

3. That the CFL spend a minimum of $100,000 a year for the “sole purpose of conducting research in relation to injury and concussions in the CFL,” and that the research be jointly agreed upon by the union and league.

4. That football operation employees—including players, coaches, trainers, equipment personnel and sideline staff—be required to attend a seminar during training camp, providing further education on brain injuries, concussions, concussion symptoms, second impact syndrome and the treatment of concussions.

The negotiators from the league have so far declined to accept these clauses into the CBA during bargaining sessions.

The CFLPA has also proposed that if a player suffers a career-ending injury, he receive one season worth of salary—paid out over four years—to assist him in his transition out of football.

The CFL would not make commissioner Mark Cohon available for an interview, and declined to address the concussion proposals from the CFLPA specifically.

“As has been consistent with our policy throughout this process, we will not comment on the specifics of our negotiations with the CFLPA,” said league spokesperson James Dykstra. “We remain focused on negotiating a deal that is fair and reasonable for the players, and that also works for the league and our teams.”

All of these are player safety issues, the players association contends.

“Player safety should not be negotiable,” said a player rep.

The CFL does have an existing concussion policy and protocol, but it is not part of the expiring CBA, which was ratified in 2010.

In his state of the league address last November, Cohon said there were 43 reported concussions during the 2013 CFL season.

Negotiations between the league and its players have been contentious. Talks broke down in March and only this month have talks taken on more of a civil tone, sources say.

Finances have been at the centre of the dispute, with the CFL refusing to attach the players’ salary cap to revenue and not entertaining revenue sharing, although there are a number of other proposals from the union on which the sides are also far apart.

The union is pushing for the option-year to be removed from contracts–a clause that keeps players under team control and, the union claims, diminishes their opportunities to pursue opportunities in the NFL.

The union is also pushing for a larger pension contribution from the league and wants players with expiring contracts to be permitted to workout with NFL teams at the end of that season, instead of in the new year.

The league has, for now, refused to budge on these three items, although both sides are scheduled to meet again Thursday and Friday of this week in Toronto.

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and players expires on the eve of training camp – at the end of this month.

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