I’ve been a huge supporter of the Canadian Football League. I’ve watched the sport during the 70’s and 80’s with much interest. I’ve adopted the B.C. Lions as my team after watching Roy Dewalt play some of his greatest games.
However, I’ve very concerned about the direction the league is going. Ownership of the league has made some questionable decisions during the last 15 years.
If there’s going to be a 97th, 98th or even a 100th edition of the Grey Cup, then the CFL is going to need to make some serious changes to their business model, if they’re going to survive.
Here are six issues that need to be address by the league.
1. Get the league back on “free TV!” – For the first time in history, Canada’s biggest football game will not be shown on free TV. Cable is the only game in town to watch it.
However, the National Football League is readily available on free TV (regular season, playoffs and the Super Bowl) on Sundays. What’s wrong with this picture? By catering to the NFL, the CFL has seriously wounded its popularity by not anticipating the league’s interest.
If they want exclusivity, then put together a cable network similar to the NFL Network. Even if they can’t get ratings, they should still present the Grey Cup Championship on free TV so that viewers can see Canadian football is still a viable sport.
Cutting off the sport to a portion that can’t afford to see it, doesn’t do anyone any favors in terms of popularity.
2. Invest in the infrastructure by building new stadiums – Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, McMahon Stadium in Calgary and Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Regina.
Most of these stadiums, some built in the 1920’s and 30’s, are old and dilapidated.
The only stadiums fit for professional sports are BC Place in Vancouver and the Rogers Center in Toronto. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where the 96th Grey Cup is taking place, is largely seen as a white elephant.
The facility has been besiged with financial and structural problems since it’s opening in 1976. So bad is the facility that the Alouettes play their games at a 20,000 seat college football field.
Through no fault of their own, the world’s economic downturn has put all projects on hold. But the league and the communities they play in must invest in newer, state of the art stadiums to provide fans a better place to watch the games.
3. Conduct expansion by finding responsible owners – One of the worst experiments the league ever made was expanding into the United States. It was an expensive gamble that the league is still paying for.
By not concentrating on franchises that were in trouble (Ottawa, original Montreal), the league missed out on improving its core base. The league must find responsible ownership that can support its franchises.
Finding people who have money without looking at their backgrounds will lead to a world of trouble.
4. Sponsor youth-based Canadian football – Now that I’m a resident of Canada, I’m noticing that Canadian football really isn’t as popular as other sports.
This is evident by the amount of football fields and the few spectator stands they have in its communities. By investing in youth football (i.e. Pop Warner football and punt, pass and kick competitions), the league will benefit from better players and, in turn, a much more popular sport.
Hockey will always be king around here. But still, Canadian football is enriched in tradition. The next generation needs to be given the opportunity to continue Canadian football.
5. CFL FANTASY FOOTBALL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! – It’s hard to believe that the CFL and Yahoo! Sports to this day have not put together a Fantasy Football division! Even more bizarre is the absence of a CFL football video game!
This is the perfect opportunity to showcase the league’s brightest stars to young people. They must negotiate agreements with websites and video game makers and promote the sport to kids in Canada and the United States.
Why there hasn’t been movement on this is anyone’s guess! This should have been done 15 years ago!
100 years should mean something. Unless the CFL address these core needs, we may not see another 100 years for Canadian football.
The big game is this weekend! The 96th Grey Cup will be awarded on Sunday, November 23rd. Click Here to see who I picked to win!!