As originally reported here last month, the CFL is ending its licensing partnership with Reebok at the end of the 2015 season. The introduction of a new manufacturing partner – likely Adidas, as per RDS’s Didier Orméjuste – will open the door for CFL teams to tinker with their current uniforms.
In this writer’s opinion, the CFL should use this opportunity to do something drastic: eliminate the ‘away’ uniform.
Before I elaborate, let’s take a moment to look at the historical significance of uniforms and their respective colours/functions.
Prior to the introduction of television in the early 1940s, many professional sports teams wore exclusively coloured uniforms. ‘Home’ and ‘away’ outfits didn’t exist. Teams owned one set of uniforms and wore them every game regardless of colour, be they black, blue, red, white or grey. A team’s colour was their trademark. Their identity.
By the mid-1950s, however, television had become prevalent enough across North America that, for the first time ever, sports fans were able to watch their favorite teams compete without attending games in person. With television sets incapable of displaying colour, however, teams were forced to carry an extra set of white uniforms to allow viewers to distinguish between sides. Though different sports/leagues have regulated the use of coloured/white uniforms in varying manners, the CFL has always mandated that teams wear coloured uniforms at home and white uniforms on the road. This has been the case for sixty years despite the fact that colour television became prevalent across Canada roughly forty years ago.
With this in mind, there is simply no reason for the usage of ‘home’ and ‘away’ uniforms to continue exist in the CFL. It’s an antiquated practice that should be replaced with something new, innovative, and revenue-generating for the league and its nine teams.
Some will argue that doing away with home and away uniforms would disparage a long-standing CFL tradition. Those people fail to consider the fact that all-coloured uniforms were the norm in this country for sixty years prior to the introduction of televised football. All nine CFL teams have an iconic primary colour by which they’ve been known for decades – some more than a century. What’s more traditional than the Toronto Argonauts in navy blue? The Saskatchewan Roughriders in green? The Hamilton Tiger-Cats in black? To me, there is no greater way to pay respect to the tradition of Canada’s league than to do away with the requirement of away uniforms.
The reason for this is three-fold. Firstly, white uniforms don’t make sense for a large number of CFL teams within their colour schemes. Consider the Ottawa RedBlacks, for example. Jeff Hunt’s team is named for the two traditional colours of Ottawa’s football heritage: red and black. Yet, on the road, Hunt’s team is forced to wear white (pictured above), an aesthetic reality that’s unaided by a ridiculous all-white design that renders an already dubious ‘RedBlack’ name utterly meaningless.
Secondly, eliminating away uniforms allows for teams to use some creativity in selecting outfits for upcoming games. Why not allow the ’Riders to wear green in the Banjo Bowl opposite the Bombers’ royal blues? Why not have the Argos free to wear navy blue when they travel to Vancouver to take on the orange-clad Lions? This would create more aesthetically appealing games while also allowing teams to more frequently wear their primary colours. 2011’s Touchdown Atlantic game (pictured above) is the only regular season CFL game I can recall to feature two teams in home uniforms. The result? A great-looking game. Neither Calgary nor Hamilton had – or have, for that matter – particularly appealing road uniforms, so why bother wearing them? It simply doesn’t make sense to opt for washed-out white garments when the Stamps’ iconic red or the Tabbies’ iconic black are available. There are obviously certain match-ups that would fail to accommodate both teams wearing their respective primary colours – Edmonton-Saskatchewan, Ottawa-Hamilton and Toronto-Winnipeg come to mind – but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Finally, the elimination of away uniforms would allow for teams to expand the use of alternate outfits. As bad as most of Reebok’s ‘signature’ uniforms turned out in 2014, there’s no denying the popularity of new and innovative looks across the CFL. A source in Blue Bomber sales told me that the club’s camouflage disasters (pictured below) were actually the club’s second best-selling jersey in 2014 behind the retro royal blues. This means that more fans were interested in buying what was essentially an ugly Toronto Argonauts jersey than Winnipeg’s current home or away looks. With this in mind, imagine how well a good alternate uniform would sell in Bomberland?
Moving forward, I’d like to see each CFL team carry three uniforms: a main uniform (ie. their current ‘home’ uniform) and two alternates, at least one of which prominently features the team’s secondary colour. Teams would wear their main uniform ten to fifteen times a year, allowing for one to five games per alternate. Popular alternates like BC’s ‘gunmetal’ uniform or Calgary’s black-red-and-chrome beauties (pictured below) would be permanent alternates, allowing for the remaining alternate to be re-done every season or two. This system would allow for teams to wear their primary colours for the majority of CFL games, while engaging fans with fresh, new alternate looks on a regular basis. Considering the extent to which fans have shown they are willing to pay for new, attractive jerseys, this system would almost surely result in a boost in revenue for each of the CFL’s nine teams.
I should also add that I’m not against CFL teams wearing white uniforms. For some CFL teams – Saskatchewan comes to mind here – white is a colour that features heavily into their regular ensembles and would make a lot of sense as a base colour for an alternate uniform. I would also like to mention that, with the Bombers already wearing gold uniforms on the road, I’ve made the assumption that colour-blind viewers are able to differentiate between teams even if one is not wearing white. With that being said, I’d love to receive feedback about this proposal from any colour-blind readers I may have.
The elimination of away uniforms would allow for CFL teams to wear their primary colours on a more consistent basis, create more aesthetically-appealing match-ups across the league, and boost both fan interest and revenue through the expanded creation of new and innovative alternate uniforms. The CFL has never shied away from change — hopefully that will continue to hold true.
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk