The CFL Players' Association is not amused with the league's COVID-19 cancellation policy.
The CFL unveiled its policy regarding if COVID-19 issues force game cancellations this year on Tuesday.
The union issued a communique to its membership Thursday saying it was "startled by, and disapproving of," the policy's contents and believed it was, "unreasonable and will not stand the scrutiny of an arbitration board."
The CFL didn't play in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is scheduled to kick off a 14-game season Thursday night in Winnipeg with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visiting the Blue Bombers in a rematch of the '19 Grey Cup game that was won by the Bombers.
Under the CFL policy, if a contest is cancelled because of COVID-19 issues and can't be rescheduled, the club suffering from the COVID-19 issues will forfeit a 1-0 loss. Should both squads have issues, they'll forfeit the game and be assigned losses.
In either scenario, if a team can prove at least 85 per cent of its players under contract have been vaccinated, at least once, the players will receive their salary for the cancelled game. If that figure falls below 85 per cent, players won't be paid.
The CFL also stated when teams made their final cuts last Friday, 79 per cent of players were fully or partially vaccinated and that three clubs had better than an 85 per cent vaccination rate among their players.
The rates of the remaining six, it stated, ranged between 67 to 81 per cent. The league also stated its latest COVID-19 testing, from July 15-July 30, showed no positive results from the approximately 6,000 tests carried on on players, coaches and support staff.
In the letter, the CFLPA told players that the union, through its counsel, had responded to the CFL.
"The CFLPA has reviewed the league's Aug. 1 policy regarding game cancellations due to COVID issues," it wrote. "The CFLPA is startled by, and disapproving of its contents.
"The union believes the CFL's policy is unreasonable and will not stand the scrutiny of an arbitration board."
And the CFLPA made it clear if games are cancelled, it has the right to grieve the merits of the policy.
"Like the CFL, the CFLPA is hopeful games may be rescheduled, but not cancelled this season." the union wrote. "However, should that arise, the CFL is on notice that the CFLPA reserves the right to grieve the lawfulness of the policy and its application."
The CFL policy also included other guidelines for cancellations. They are:
— The staging of the game being precluded by a decision from a government health authority;
— A team not having 36 players to dress for the game;
— A team not having individuals available to coach the offence and defence;
— A team not having a certified athletic therapist and sports medicine physician available for a contest.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie can also cancel a game at his discretion following consultation with the CFL’s chief medical officers and CFLPA.
"Our goal this year, as it has been for the past 20 months, is to have a safe and healthy season under the present circumstances," the union wrote to members. "We will not waver from that focus, while at the same time protecting our membership's rights."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press