New CFLPA president Scott Flory ready to get down to contract talks

The new president of the CFL Players' Association said Tuesday all the union wants is a fair deal with the league. The current collective bargaining agreement expires May 30.

Alouettes lineman succeeds Mike Morreale in players' union post

Scott Flory, right, seen in a file photo with Montreal, is focused on a new pact with the league, and will talk about his playing career next week. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Scott Flory isn't looking to break the bank.

The new president of the CFL Players' Association said Tuesday all the union wants is a fair deal with the league. The two sides are scheduled to resume talks next week on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The present deal is set to expire May 30.

"All we want is a fair agreement," Flory said in a telephone interview. "We understand the league . . . players just want a fair share."

These are indeed heady times for the CFL.

The league has a new contract extension with athletic apparel giant Reebok. One of its teams (Winnipeg) moved into a new stadium last season and another (Hamilton) is scheduled to do so this year, the same time expansion Ottawa returns and plays at a refurbished facility.

Attendance continues to rise and corporate sponsorships remain strong. And then there's the CFL's lucrative television agreement with TSN reportedly worth $43 million annually that's scheduled to kick in this year.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon has repeatedly stated he never discusses CBA negotiations in public. But on Monday he said in a statement the league is committed to "working towards a fair and reasonable agreement with our players. We want to be fair to them and keep our league on the path to being strong as well as stable."

Money will undoubtedly be a hot-button topic when talks resume. The new TV deal alone is more than 2 1/2 times the previous agreement, which was worth $15 million annually. Subsequently, CFL teams can expect more money from the league's head office.

Negotiations between the league and its players have traditionally been amicable. However, there's a persistent belief this time around players will dig in their heels in order to get what they believe is a fair piece of the financial pie.

There's been one strike since the formation of the CFLPA in 1965. It came in '74 and lasted three weeks during training camp before a three-year agreement was signed with no regular-season games lost.

Flory reiterated Tuesday that CFL players won't play under terms of the existing CBA. While Flory didn't say so specifically, that suggests training camps won't open in June without a new deal in place.

"There's a lot more things than the financial," Flory said. "There's player safety, transitioning and pension items that we want to look at as well.

"This is an all-encompassing negotiation but there is a lot of growth going on in the league."

And, Flory said, much of that growth is due to the quality of the on-field product.

"The players lay it all on the line week in and week out, game in and game out for not very much," he said. "They are the most accessible members in the community, they are at charity events and speaking events, guys are everywhere and they deserve a fair share of what's gone on in the success of the league.

"There is more people in the stadiums to watch the games. There's more people watching on TV to watch the players play and I think that's important."

Also worth noting is both sides have a lot riding on these negotiations.

If a new agreement can't be reached and a work stoppage ensues, the league wouldn't receive any television money. Conversely, the players wouldn't be paid either.

"I can't and will not speak to that," Flory said when asked about a work stoppage. "We are always willing to meet with the league . . . we want to continue talks and we want to work towards a new collective agreement, there is no doubt about that."

Calgary Stampeders fullback Rob Cote echoed those sentiments.

"Every single one of us loves football and wants to play in June," said the product of Cochrane, Alta. "That is first and foremost.

"It's a negotiation. Negotiations start slow and they usually speed up when you (have) a deadline. People tend to procrastinate when they're negotiating, as I'm sure everybody here is aware of. We all want to get a good, fair deal done and we're looking forward to playing."

For Stampeders president Gord Norrie, it's business as usual.

"We're just plodding along like we're going to play football and keeping very optimistic," he said.

The six-foot-four, 300-pound Flory replaces former CFL player Mike Morreale as union president. Flory's election certainly raised questions about why the union membership would change its leadership heading into a new round of talks with the league.

"I am not going to get into conspiracy theories or innuendo," Flory said politely. "This is a natural course of business that we've done as a players' association for the last 40 years . . . I was very fortunate and humbled to be elected president and that's it."

Flory, 37, is well versed in CFLPA business. The Regina native served as an Alouettes player rep for eight years and spent the last four seasons on the union's executive.

"I became involved early as a player rep because I wanted to learn the business of the sport," he said. "We play under the rules on the field and I think it's as important, or more important, to know the rules surrounding the game off the field.

"I see it (being voted president) as a natural evolution. It's something I wanted to do to serve the players as best I could."

Flory couldn't provide an answer when asked what kind of negotiator he is. His mandate at the bargaining table, though, is crystal clear.

"At the end of the day, how I see my role is I'm enacting the will of the people," he said. "Every player in this league who pays dues is my boss and I will do my best to represent them.

"They are going to give us our marching orders and we're going to execute it. The players are the game . . . I'm passionate about the cause of the players,"

However, the question remains whether Flory, a three-time Grey Cup champion and nine-time league all-star, can continue to play while being CFLPA president. The last three union presidents — Dan Ferrone, Stu Laird and Morreale — all assumed the job following their playing careers.

"That's a good question," said Flory, twice named the CFL's outstanding lineman. "I've already talked to [Alouettes GM] Jim Popp as to my role moving forward and hope to have an announcement by the end of next week."


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