With attendance sagging, USports moves the Vanier Cup back to Laval

After two years of disappointing crowds in Hamilton, the Vanier Cup is returning to Laval University in Quebec City for 2018 and 2019 USports announced on Monday.

The Canadian university football championship was played at Tim Hortons Field, home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in both 2016 and 2017 but attracted just 7,115 fans the first year – an all-time low – and 10,754 last November. Laval was a participant in both contests, beating the Calgary Dinos two years ago before falling to the Western Mustangs last year.

The Rouge et Or have consistently been one of the best university football programs in the country and have hosted the game on four previous occasions, most recently in 2015, and have averaged more than 16,000 in attendance.

But when Laval isn’t in the Vanier, the crowds in Quebec City haven’t been nearly as good: the 2015 contest between UBC and the University of Montreal attracted 12,557.

As it has for the past several seasons, the Vanier Cup will be played on the Saturday before Grey Cup (Nov. 24 this year and Nov. 23 in 2019.)

The all-time attendance record for a Vanier Cup is 37,098, set in 2012 in Toronto when the McMaster Marauders lost to Laval. That’s also the last year the Vanier Cup was played in the same city as the Grey Cup.

With only two clear avenues to success – either playing the game in the same location as the Grey Cup or hoping the team from the Vanier Cup host city gets in – USports has clearly chosen the latter.