Frequently Asked Questions about Compensation
- What is the average salary of a CFL player? How much are CFL players paid during training camp? What is the salary of [player x]? What are the average salaries of CFL players by position?#
Information found here is not endorsed by the league or member clubs. It is for general information only, facts presented based on information known. No one should draw any conclusions based on the information below.
The CFL has a $5 million salary cap in 2014 and a roster size of 56 players resulting in a mean (average) salary of $89,285. Due to short-term injuries and other factors the average salary is lower. Without detailed player salary information, it is impossible to calculate the salary median (middle) or mode (most frequent) which would provide more meaningful representations of the salary sample. The average salary of all starting players would be much higher than the average of all players so the mathematical average is much different than what the "average" player's contract states.
Reports in 2014 stated the 2013 average salary hovered around the $80,000 range, very close to the $83,000 mean salary. In 2010, reports on CBA negotiations (sorry, source is no longer available) put the CFLPA salary survey average for the 2009 season at about $60,000.
The minimum player salary as dictated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement is $50,000 in 2014, incremented by $1,000 per year for the next four years of the current CBA. Base salary plus pre-season compensation is paid over a five-month span, with playoff bonuses topping off compensation for an additional month of play for teams that qualify. Player salaries do not include earnings outside of football or endorsement and appearance fees.
A player's salary is divided and paid equally over the 18 games of the regular season (the game cheque). Once a standard player contract is signed, the player is entitled to the contract salary, no matter the roster he appears on (active, reserve, injured) except the suspended or disabled lists, until he is released. Players must be released and voluntarily sign a practice roster agreement to be transferred to that roster. See our CFL Roster Makeup chart for details on the CFL roster makeup.
Per 2010 Article 11 of the CBA, players who qualified as a veteran of one year received $525/week, a veteran of two years $625/week and a veteran of three years or more $725/week for a minimum of three weeks of training camp/pre-season compensation.
Players are also compensated with a per diem when travelling, free and discounted tickets, playoff and Grey Cup compensation and pension contributions. Full obligations to players can be found in the Collective Agreement.
Individual player salaries are not made public though you may be able to find media estimates in reports of player signings. Player salaries or averages by position are not known to the public. However, some light is shed in this 2011 Prime Time Sports interview (MP3, 13:43, 6.4MB), with then Toronto Argonaut coach and general manager Jim Barker in which he discusses the Canadian draft, player salary ranges by position, dealing with agents and more.
An article on compensation and the facts presented here was posted in April 2013.
- How much is the CFL salary cap? What is the CFL Salary Management System (SMS)? What is included in the CFL salary cap calculations?#
The CFL's player salary cap is defined as part of the Salary Management System framework. For the 2014 season, the CFL Maximum Salary Expenditure Cap (SEC) is $5.0 million per team, increasing by $50,000 per year for the next four seasons. This cap applies to players' salaries and bonuses, excluding pre and post season compensation, per diems, pension payments and players on the 6-game injured list. The SEC is the maximum amount teams may pay in player compensation. Exceeding the cap results in fines progressing with the overage and the potential loss of draft picks. The framework also sets out the number of players allowed under contract, roster sizes, and practice roster make-up.
The SMS defines a ceiling for salaries, but also defines a floor in Article 14.09 Minimum Player Compensation of the CBA. Member clubs must pay a minimum of $4.4 million in salaries to players in 2014, increasing by $50,000 per year for the next four years.
The SMS was introduced in late 2006 with a $4.05 million cap for the 2007 season. This increased to $4.2 million for the 2008 season, $4.25 million for the 2010 season, $4.3 million for the 2011 season and $4.35 million for the 2012 season.
The SMS system includes player contracts only, coach salaries are not included. The SEC calculations include all applicable payments in a calendar year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. To understand exactly what is included against the cap and what is not, we can examine Article 14.09, paragraph 3 under Salary Management System of the 2006 CBA, which outlines the compensation which will not be included in the SEC amount.
In the event that the C.F.L. and the Member Clubs implement a salary expenditure cap for player compensation, it shall not include compensation paid to players and compensation paid for player benefits with respect to pre-season compensation, pension plan, travel allowance, play-off compensation, Grey Cup compensation, compensation paid to players named to the nine game injury list, compensation paid to players for the reasonable fair market value of services other than practicing and playing professional football; compensation paid to players on the practice roster in excess of 7 players per Member Club and compensation paid to players in the form of gifts, free services, travel and items or services of value provided by Member Clubs to players provided that such payments to an individual player shall not exceed $2,000.00 in the aggregate in a single year and such payments to all players by each Member Club shall not exceed $92,000.00 in a single year.
Per Article 30.02 of the 2006 CBA players were entitled a minimum of 56% of the defined league gross revenue. Their salaries at the time of negotiation exceeded this amount. If this percentage were to fall below 56% the league would be required to pay the CFLPA the difference. These payments would not have counted against the salary cap, which was introduced after the 2006 CBA was ratified. This requirement was negotiated away in the 2010 CBA in exchange for immediate and scheduled cap increases.
- How much is a CFL practice roster player paid? What is the salary of a CFL practice roster player? Are CFL practice roster salaries included in the salary cap? Are CFL active or practice roster players provided a housing allowance or housing by their clubs?#
Information found here is not endorsed by the league or member clubs. It is for general information only, facts presented based on information known and may be dated. No one should draw any conclusions based on the information below.
The CFL Practice Agreement (see Appendix I of the CBA) allows the team and player to agree to a weekly salary (not tied to games). For inexperienced Canadian and unproven players practice roster pay can start in the $2500/month range. Veteran players and American players are likely to receive more if they are asked to take a practice roster spot. Players have the choice to reject any practice roster contract offer, so teams may have to increase their offer to keep the player. Teams have the option to pay the league minimum or higher (the amount on the standard player contract the player signed to attend training camp), however, by doing so for a practice roster player, the player is entitled to all the benefits of a regular player except post-season compensation as laid out in Section 17.02 of the CBA. Of course, increased pay for practice roster players also cuts into available funds under the salary cap.
While no source to link to I believe it is safe to say that players on the practice roster receiving less than the minimum salary are the exception rather than the rule. While the practice of separate contract types and benefits for practice roster players may continue in the future under new CBA agreements, the league is aware that it must be more competitive in compensation to attract and develop players for the practice roster.
Most media reports state practice roster pay is in the $500 per week range (2005, 2007, 2009, 2009), though $600 is also stated. In Hamilton in 2011, Drew Edwards says practice roster players make $500 week, plus team provided shared housing and some meals.
It is unknown how accurate these media estimates are or if they are based on repeating media estimates decades old ($500/week has been quoted since the early 1990's [sorry, Google news archive search no longer works]). One player's quote in 2009 can help us calculate using some assumptions: 5 active roster games in 2006 x $2,350 (minimum game salary) = $11,750. $20,000 - $11,750 = $8250 ÷ 15 games on practice roster = $550/week. Then again, a lot has changed since 2009.
Per Article 14.09 of the CBA (page 47, paragraph 3 under Salary Management System), the seven (increased to nine in 2013) player practice roster salaries are included in the SMS but salaries of players during expanded practice rosters are not included. Practice roster rules are defined under Article 17 of the CBA.
Teams must provide reasonable living accommodations for all players who do not reside in the location where training camp is held as noted in Article 6.01.08 of the 2010 CBA. The same article specifies that non-veteran players still on the roster at the end of training camp are entitled to a one-time $300 payment (as a housing allowance, I assume).
Active roster players are not obligated by the CBA to receive any housing allowance after training camp nor is housing provided by the club except what is negotiated in an individual players contract. Practice roster players are also not obligated to receive a housing allowance or housing by the club. Therefore, it is not uncommon for players to share accommodations, either as a group of players sharing an apartment or other residence or boarding with a veteran player, although the practices in each CFL city will vary. It is possible that teams will arrange for new players to board with team boosters (see Michael Clemons — Pinball: The Making of a Canadian Hero), employees or alumni, but this will vary by city, year and player.
In a 2008 interview with a Canadian player, the interviewer states the player received $600/week plus $500/month for living expenses as a practice roster player. It is likely the specifics of practice roster salaries and other payments vary from team-to-team and city-to-city based on the local economic situation under the parameters allowed by the CBA.
- How long is a CFL contract? What is the minimum player contract length in the CFL?#
Effective with the ratification of the 2014 CBA, all first CFL contract players must sign a standard player contract of one year, plus one additional year at the team's option, which effectively makes it a two year contract. This is contained in paragraph 15 of the standard player contract, which provides the member club an option to renew the contract on the same terms for another year at a minimum of 100% of the amount of the contract plus 100% of the amount of bonus payments specified in the contract, excluding any signing bonus. After fulfilling their option to renew a contract in this way, the member club will not have another option to renew the contract in this way. This option is available to member clubs for an additional year on any length of contract. There is no limit to the length of a contract. Starting in 2014, veteran players signing a CFL contract that is not their first are not required to have a team's option year added to the contract, therefore they may sign a single year contract.
All CFL contracts expire on Feb. 16th, 12:01 AM after their term length has expired (this changed in 2012, when the league dictated the contracts would expire at 12:00 pm (noon) EST Feb. 15th). The CFL changed the start of free agency in 2014 to Feb. 11th with the agreement of the CFLPA to avoid it falling on the Feb. long weekend across much of Canada. Teams must inform the player in writing before the expiry of the contract their intent to exercise their option to renew the contract. Players who do not have their option year picked up must be placed on waivers.
- What is the playoff compensation for CFL games? How much are CFL players paid for playoff games? What is the history of CFL playoff compensation?#
For 2012 and 2013, playoff and Grey Cup compensation is as follows:
First Place Standing (Bye) $3,400 Semi-Final Participation $3,400 Division Championship Participation $3,600 Grey Cup Runner-up $8,000 Grey Cup Winner $16,000
This is an increase of $100 for First Place Standing, Semi-Final Participation and Division Championship Participation over the 2011 amounts.
See Article 12 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for full details.
The CBA provides playoff compensation to all active roster and injured list players, but not practice roster players. This payment comes from revenue from the playoff and Grey Cup games and a minimum of $469,200 is paid to 46-man rosters of 3 teams (2 semi-finalists, 1 bye) for each of the division semi-finals, $331,200 to 2 teams for each of the division finals and $1.104 million for the Grey Cup. Practice roster players continue to receive the weekly pay stated in their practice roster agreement paid by their club. Practices for sharing playoff compensation will vary from year to year and team to team.
The 2006 CBA provided for Semi-Final participation/First Place Standing compensation starting at $3,000/player, increasing by $100/year for the last three years of the agreement. Final participation compensation started at $3,200/player, increasing to $3,500/player through the life of the agreement. Grey Cup runner-up compensation started at $7,000 in the first year of the agreement, increasing by $500/year for the next two years. Similarly, Grey Cup winner compensation started at $14,000 and increased by $1,000/year the next two years.
The 2002 CBA provided for a minimum of $2,800/player for Semi-Final participation/First Place Standing and $3,000/player for Final participation through the life of the agreement. However, players were entitled to 51% of the games net proceeds less the minimum compensation. See Article 12 of the 2002 CBA for the full details of the complicated expense formula. This was negotiated away in the 2006 CBA, perhaps because 51% of the games net proceeds did not exceed the minimum compensation owed to the players.
The 2002 CBA provided for $6,000/player for the Grey Cup losing team and $12,000/player for the winning Grey Cup team. There was no agreement to share the game's net proceeds.
- What is the CFL players daily per diem? What is the travel allowance for a CFL player?#
The travel allowance for CFL players is defined in Article 25 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In 2010 to 2013 the daily travel allowance is $115 for each day travelling for a pre-season, regular season, playoff or Grey Cup game.
The allowance is reduced by $30 for travelling days where the team provides a meal and by $50 on departure or return days where the departure time occurs after or before 12:00 noon respectively. See the CBA for the full details of the exceptions.
For comparison, this is higher than the current NHL per diem (Article 19 of the NHL-NHLPA 2013 CBA [pg 128]).
- What is the salary of a CFL head coach? What is the salary of a CFL assistant coach?#
Information found here is not endorsed by the league or member clubs. It is for general information only, facts presented based on information known. No one should draw any conclusions based on the information below.
CFL coach salaries are not public. It is estimated that a head coach's salary, depending on experience, is in the mid six-figure range. The coaching salary budgets of teams has increased substantially in the last 10 years, with coaching staff sizes increasing (from average of 5.7 in 2003 to 9.5 assistants in 2013), salaries increasing and more coaches in year-round positions.
Assistant coach salaries differ depending on the role. Offensive and defensive coordinators can earn six figure salaries while positional coaches can earn salaries in the high-five figures or low six-figures depending on experience. In the past some even volunteer to establish themselves in order to get on a paid staff in the future. CFL assistant coaches can have long careers but live a nomadic existence that coaching requires.
A CFL team will spend around $2 million per year in salaries for their general manager and coaches. The CFL coaching budgets and salaries have been increasing in recent years as the league prosperity increases, with teams employing more coaches and paying them more than five years ago.
Please understand these estimates are for fan purposes only, educated guesses gleaned from a few media reports and other resources. Prospective coaches should query their coaching fraternity, agents or other sources for actual ranges. What really matters is not what is stated here, but what is offered to you and whether that is acceptable to you.
- What is a CFL referee salary? How much are CFL on-field officials paid? How many games does a CFL official work per year?#
Information found here is not endorsed by the league or member clubs. It is for general information only, facts presented based on information known that may now be dated. No one should draw any conclusions based on the information below.
CFL referees and other on-field officials are not full-time employees. In 2006, their compensation ranged from $550 and $850 per game (depending on experience and position) plus travel costs. These rates may have increased since 2006. In 2006 if a referee officiated 18 games during the season (typically they officiate 16 regular season games per season), he would have grossed just over $15,000 over six months, perhaps not enough to make up for the earnings lost for time taken off from their full time jobs or professions. Although not paid as full time professionals, CFL officials are professionals who make judgment calls many times per game and their performance is continuously evaluated. Most of their criticism received is over these judgment calls, which can not be called into question by instant replay or other means. Former players who have viewed the process believe officials need to be praised more than criticized.
It would be very expensive to pay officials full time salaries for 1-day of work per week during a six month season, and it would do nothing to increase the quality of officiating or attract new officials. A perspective on officials salaries was provided in the CFLdb article "On Officiating".
- What are the restrictions on releasing a veteran player? What are the rules affecting the release of a veteran player in the CFL? Are CFL contracts guaranteed?#
As per Article 15 of the CBA, players of certain veteran status must be paid their full salary, pension, playoff and Grey Cup earnings if they are released after a certain point in the season.
Qualified as a Veteran of Entitled to 100% salary after Six years or more 9th Regular Season game Five years 10th Regular Season game Four years 11th Regular Season game
Full salary would apply to game salary only, future timed bonus payments would not be included since they are most likely worded as a roster bonus (player receives bonus if he is on the roster/under contract at a specific time). Other bonus payments for starts, games played, etc. would have to be met to be received.
Players qualified as a veteran of one or more year who are released after the 14th game of the Regular Season are entitled to all medical benefits they were receiving prior to termination up to the day before training camp the next year.
A player is not considered released for these calculations until notice has been served and the waiver period has expired as defined in Article 14, Section 7 of the agreement.
Besides these requirements, CFL contracts are not guaranteed in the case of a player being released or beyond the current season in the case of a football-related injury.
- Are player moving expenses paid by teams in the CFL? Do CFL teams pay player moving expenses to relocate to Canada?#
The only obligation to CFL member clubs for moving expenses comes from Article 27 of the CBA for the transfer of player contracts between clubs (trades, claimed off waivers). The assignee club is required at a minimum to reimburse economy airfare if air travel is required and up to $1,000 in moving expenses for any player that reports, irregardless if the player appears on the roster for any games. Players who appear on the roster for a minimum of two games receive $1,000. If the transfer occurs between the start of training camp and the Grey Cup, the amount increases to $2,000.
If a player is on the roster for a minimum of five games or the last game the assignee club plays in a season, the assignee club shall reimburse economy airfare for the player's wife to the assignee club's city and moving expenses up to a maximum amount defined in the schedules of the article. The amounts range from $3,000 to $7,000 dependent on the distance between the clubs in question. See Article 27 of the CBA for full details.
While clubs are not obligated to pay moving expenses of new import players, it is possible signing bonuses in a contract could be made for this purpose. However, signing bonuses for non-veteran players would be small or rare.
- Can you provide advice on this contract or situation? The team is saying this, is that true? Is this contract the team wants me to sign fair? Can you help with my situation?#
Please direct all questions of these types to the CFLPA or a registered player agent. As per the CFLPA Services page, the association provides legal representation on CBA and contract matters and contract advice to members:
Your Association can help you with your individual contract negotiation. If you are negotiating your contract with the Club, you may contact Legal Counsel for the Association and they will provide you with pertinent salary information and Club information to assist you in the negotiation of your contract.
We are unable to answer these types of questions as we are not experts in the CBA or the law, nor do we have an insider information on the compensation and workings of member clubs. Please seek the advice of the CFLPA or a registered agent.
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