Stephen Brunt: ‘No one wants to play three-down football in America’

Screengrab courtesy: Sportsnet

When respected Canadian sports journalist Stephen Brunt speaks, it’s smart to listen.

Brunt shared his insight regarding the potential CFL and XFL partnership on Tim and Friends on Monday.

“The oven’s on and it’s more than talking about talking. They’re down the road here,” Brunt told host Tim Micallef.

The CFL and XFL owners have agreed to work together to identify opportunities for the leagues to collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the XFL season to a halt after five games and tackled the entire CFL season.

“Losing one season and then whatever the hell this season ends up being isn’t going to make money. Two losing seasons for this league could cost us this league. Is that why we’re talking about the XFL and CFL? Micallef asked.

“Yes — straight up. I’m not a doomsayer or any of those things, but I’ve been through CFL near death experiences before. There’s an enormous amount of uncertainty around the CFL — it’s fragile.”

The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million last year and are set to lose millions more if any kind of season if played in 2021. After the Canadian government refused to provide a $30 million interest-free loan a year ago, the CFL is looking elsewhere for financial help.

“American expansion. The reason they did it is because there was no plan B, they had to do it or die. We’re kind of in the same spot right now,” Brunt said.

“Some of it’s not there fault, pandemic is the pandemic, but the cracks start to show when you’re under stress, under crisis.”

That’s led the CFL to connecting with The Rock. Dwayne Johnson, his business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital purchased the bankrupt XFL and its assets for $15 million last year. There were franchises in eight American cities in 2021: DC, New York, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

“They’re not going to go to America and play three-down football. You can’t put a Canadian field in the stadiums we’re talking about. The ratio forget about it. If everybody loved that stuff so much there wouldn’t be an issue,” Brunt said.

“They might take some Canadian stuff with them, the motion, yard off the ball. But no one wants to play three-down football in America. You can’t tell me [the CFL is] more fun than watching Patrick Mahomes, NFL football is a lot of fun now.”

The NFL has morphed into CFL style football with higher scoring games and it has forced the Canadian league to consider all options.