Judge orders CHL, 42 teams to release tax returns, financial statements

OHL Commissioner and CHL President David Branch. (Canadian Press)

More developments in the ongoing lawsuit surrounding the CHL and paying its players came to light Friday.

As first reported by Rick Westhead from TSN, on Friday a Calgary judge ordered the CHL and the 42 teams in the WHL and OHL release tax returns and other financial statements from the past five years.

“The defendants obviously consider that this evidence of financial difficulties is key to their opposition to the certification of this action as a class action,” judge R.J. Hall wrote in his decision according to TSN. “Having placed the clubs’ and the leagues’ financial viability squarely into issue, the CHL, the WHL and the clubs must produce their financial documents as potentially proving their position, or placing their evidence into dispute. The defendants’ evidence has rendered these records relevant to the issues on certification, and necessary to supplement their affidavit evidence.”

The suit alleges that the CHL makes millions of dollars through sponsorships, ticket sales and TV deals, including with Sportsnet, without properly giving the players compensation.

According to Westhead, who obtained the court ruling, the QMJHL was not named in the suit and does not have to comply.

In a statement sent to Sportsnet, CHL president and OHL commissioner David Branch said “Nothing about the decision rendered yesterday changes our position that our players are, and have always been, amateur athletes and not employees.”

Branch added, “This was one of two decisions rendered by the court and we were pleased that the court agreed with us and struck out as inadmissible part of the plaintiff’s certification record earlier this month. We will continue to vigorously defend our position.”

A certification hearing is expected to take place in 2017.

Sportsnet’s John Grigg reported in more detail on both sides of the argument recently. You can read his article here.

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