A look at the early history of the CFL

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Over 150 years ago, people started playing the first football games in Canada.

Since then, the sport has gone through many radical changes. It took a while for football to resemble the modern game we know and love, and for the Canadian Football League to be formed.

Origins in the 19th century

The first historical mention of football played in Canada comes from 1861 when a game was played at University College, University of Toronto. A football club was formed at the university soon after, although its rules were more in line with rugby football than those of the modern game. Many rugby football teams in Canada then began forming in the 1860s.

In 1884, the Canadian Rugby Football Union was established. In 1891, it changed its name to the Canadian Rugby Union, and it served as an umbrella organization for various regional and provincial unions. In the early 1900s, the sport began to resemble little of its rugby origins and started to become more similar to American football. In 1909, Governor General Earl Grey provided the Grey Cup to the winning team of the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada. 

You do not have to get covered in mud to play football in the 21st Century like you would have had to in the 19th Century, because today there are a wide variety of football video games you can play from the comfort of your home to test your skills. You will find plenty of football video games online. And you can check out an online casino if you prefer to play sports-based slot games. 

Introduction of the Burnside Rules

The Burnside rules, which were named after the captain of the University of Toronto football team, were first adopted in 1903. The rules introduced significant new changes that would alter the way the game was played from thereon. That was the turning point from a rugby-style game to a gridiron-style one. The rules included reducing players from 15 to 12 a side and reducing the number of men allowed on the line of scrimmage when the ball was put back into play from eight to six. Although, the new rules were similar to the Walter Camp rules for American football that had been developed in the 1880s, the Burnside rules contained many notable differences, and they evolved separately to the American rules.

Unions form in the early 20th century

In 1907, things began to get more serious for Canadian football when several senior Ontario and Quebec clubs formed the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union. It took almost another 30 years for an interprovincial western union to emerge. But in 1936, senior clubs from Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan formed the Western Interprovincial Football Union. The two unions gradually evolved from amateur to professional leagues over the next few decades. A few years after the end of World War II, the leagues had turned completely professional. 

The formation of the Canadian Football League

In 1956, the WIFU and the IRFU established an umbrella organization called the Canadian Football Council. Two years later, it reorganized as the Canadian Football League, and the CFL took possession of the Grey Cup.

From its inception in 1958 until 1981, the CFL included the same franchises: the B.C. Lions, the Calgary Stampeders, the Edmonton Eskimos, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Toronto Argonauts, the Ottawa Rough Riders, and the Montreal Alouettes. 

The CFL admitted its first US-based franchise in 1993 with the Sacramento Gold Miners. The league then expanded further into the US the following year, with the Baltimore Stallions, the Las Vegas Posse, and the Shreveport Pirates. And in 1995, the Stallions were the first non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup.