CFL right to punish Riders for skirting ratio rules

Speaking for some Canadians, it’s good to know the Canadian Football League is taking seriously the value of its Canadian players.

To wit: The league fined the Saskatchewan Roughriders $15,000 for having too many international players on the field. That means there weren’t enough Canadians playing for the Roughriders. And the league office noticed… about three weeks after it happened!

Now the Roughriders certainly have a shallow pool of national talent — which partly explains the team’s struggles this season —but that doesn’t allow them the privilege of deploying fewer than the league-mandated minimum of seven among the 24 players appearing on offence and defence.

It’s still silly to think that only seven of 24 starters have to be homegrown in the Canadian Football League. It’s even sillier to know that only 21 of the 44 players dressing for each game, for each team, are nationals.

The league has slowly diminished the value of Canadian players in the Canadian Football League to the point where the majority of active players are Americans. And the teams are constantly whining about the difficulty they face in finding enough Canadians to fill their rosters.

Deal with it! The game was made for Canadians. It’s supposed to play a vital role in developing grassroots football across the country, from minor leagues to high school to junior colleges to universities. And those leagues are developing more high quality players, to the point where 189 Canadians are on CFL rosters every week, plus 13 Canadians started the 2015 season on National Football League rosters.

An on-field official is supposed to keep track during each game, to make sure each CFL team deploys at least seven nationals among its 24 offensive/defensive starters. Somehow in the middle of Saskatchewan’s July 16 game against the B.C. Lions, the home-town Roughriders had too many internationals playing on their defence, according to the league office.

TSN’s Gary Lawless, who first reported the league was investigating the Riders, led a televised discussion that insinuated Chris Jones, Saskatchewan’s head coach/GM, has been previously warned about short-changing his team’s Canadian players.

OK. It’s not a capital crime and it could easily happen in the midst of a game when a team is scrambling to replace injured players, but if it’s caught during a game (as it should have been) the infraction earns a 25-yard penalty, plus a fine. The Canadian Football League announced the $15,000 fine 19 days after the infraction. So league officials must have watched film on the Riders to verify what happened. It isn’t a wonderful season for the Riders, but if they’re messing — intentionally or unintentionally — with the Canadian Football League’s constitution, it might make watching their games considerably more interesting.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.