Ottawa football fans deserted by possible CFL players strike

The broken relationship between the CFL and its players could spur a work stoppage and hurt the Ottawa RedBlacks just as football returns to the capital for a third time.

Possible work stoppage comes as CFL returns to Ottawa for a third time

The Ottawa Renegades didn't enjoy much success, but they did in August 2003 as then-head coach Joe Paopao celebrated his team's 43-38 win over the Montreal Alouettes. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A note from Ottawa football fans to the Canadian Football League: Great timing.

The first CFL preseason game is scheduled to take place in just over two weeks, while the first regular season game is set to kick off in a month.

But this week’s spat between the Canadian Football League and its players forebodes some muddy waters ahead with a strike vote and a shortened CFL season possibly on the horizon.

The collective bargaining agreement expires in about a week and there’s little common ground on issues like a salary cap and revenue sharing.

It’s unfathomable the CFL decided to expand in a year the CBA expires.

​CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon indicates the league would accept a work stoppage, while the players, through CFLPA president Scott Flory, have stated they would not begin the season under terms of the expiring CBA while the sides negotiate.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon says CFL teams are basically small businesses. (Roy Antal/Canadian Press )
Can the players afford to wait out the league? The league is counting on that answer being, “No.”

“We’re a gate-driven model,” Cohon told a Toronto radio station this week, meaning the league makes money mostly based on the number of people attending games. So cancelling games means money lost and lost TV revenue.

“It’s not an environment we want to be in,” Cohon added.

Sorry isn't good enough

For Ottawa fans, the CFL environment has been pretty sour.

Any delays starting this season are basically a smack in the face to fans who have come back once more in hopes football survives. If the CFL needs bums in the seats they better realize any type of stoppage is another hit in the capital.

Ottawa football fans don’t want an apology, either. This city's sports fans have had a tough year and this expansion franchise serves as a nice distraction.

The last couple of decades have also been quite depressing as the Rough Riders and Renegades endured several trials and tribulations.

Scott Flory, the CFL Players' Association's new president, says players won't start the CFL season without a new collective bargaining agreement. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press/File)
If the problem wasn’t ownership, it was the team. If the team wasn’t half bad, the owners either gave up or didn’t care for football in the capital.

Ownership doesn’t seem to be an issue for the RedBlacks. Results, though, could be affected by a work stoppage.

“Having an expansion franchise in the middle of a potential strike that would set you back several weeks and potentially remove some critical parts of the process in talent evaluation, that’s going to be tough on everybody. But it’s going to be particularly tough on an expansion franchise,” said Chris Gittings, the agent for RedBlacks quarterback Henry Burris.

You have to believe expansion in Ottawa is an important part of growing the CFL’s revenue base, seeing as the league keeps trying despite past failures.

That’s why the league should ensure the franchise starts off on the right foot.

If the RedBlacks stumble out of the blocks, we might see the franchise fall on its face (again) financially and/or on the field.

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About the Author

Jamie Long

Reporter | Editor

Jamie Long is a reporter and editor for CBC Ottawa. He is also the social media editor and presenter for CBC Ottawa. You can tweet him @cbcjlong or reach him at


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