Monday Mailbag: XFL merger, the UFPA fiasco, CFL’s 2021 season

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag is designed to answer questions from readers across the country.

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Please note that by sending us a question you are giving us the right to publish it along with your name. Questions may be lightly edited for spelling and/or formatting.

We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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Do you think the CFL and XFL will merge into one league? I understand Commissioner Ambrosie wants the CFL to continue being successful into the future and Dwayne Johnson wants the XFL to succeed.

Is there anything the two leagues can do to keep both leagues alive without actually having to merge?

-Jonah Finlayson

Thanks for the question, Jonah.

There’s a pretty decent chance that the CFL and XFL will form some type of partnership. Is that inherently a good or bad thing? I’m not sure.

One advantage of a partnership/merger is that the leagues wouldn’t have to compete for talent. Canadians would hate watching star players or well-known coaches leave for the XFL and vice-versa. Functioning as one league where teams need to abide by the same rules to sign and trade talent makes sense.

On the other hand, the XFL doesn’t want to compete against the NFL or NCAA, which means their season has to finish by early September. Conforming to the XFL’s schedule would leave the CFL competing against the NHL playoffs from April to June, which would hurt ratings and exposure.

I think it would be cool for the leagues to have some type of “international championship” where the XFL champion played against the CFL champion. It could be a two-game series — one with American rules and one with CFL rules. Highest combined score wins.

With that said, I think a full-blown merger would be a disaster — especially if they played under American rules.

Canadians who watch the NFL exclusively do so because they have the best players in the world and the league’s exposure is off the charts.

Changing the CFL from three downs to four doesn’t fix that. The league is fun and unique. Turning it into “NFL-lite” does nothing but hurt the product and alienate the existing hardcore fans.

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Could someone explain just who the “United Football Players of America” are? I don’t believe they’ve ever made themselves known to the public (and I have been following all things football for a LONG time!).

I don’t know what they felt they had to gain by claiming that the CFL wouldn’t play this coming season. All it appears they did was piss people off — or do you know something I don’t?

-Heather D.

I don’t know anything that you don’t know, Heather.

A relatively small Twitter account called the United Football Players Association (UFPA) posted a statement this past week suggesting a strong likelihood that the CFL was going to cancel its 2021 and 2022 seasons.

The league quickly refuted this claim, reassuring fans that they plan to play this year.

I had never heard of the UFPA until this week. After doing some digging, the group appears to be made up predominantly of players who recently spent time in the AAF and the XFL.

It has no formal ties to the CFL whatsoever, which has its own players’ association (the CFLPA) that has been around since 1965.

To give you an example of how much this group knows about the CFL, this is an excerpt from a bulletin on their website:

Some new developments have come out about the player contracts (specifically player rights to sign with other leagues) for the CFL, which are extremely important for guys to know about because it could put some people in a binding situation if you are not aware of the contractual details before signing. Make sure you know that if you sign with a CFL team and you have a team option deal, you will not be able to come back in 2022 to the States to play in the XFL.

What they are describing — having to make a two-year commitment to the CFL when signing your first contract — is not a “new development.” It’s been the case since 2012 when the NFL option window was eliminated.

The XFL did not have a players’ union in 2020, so there’s a void that the UFPA may hope to fill in the coming years. As of now, however, they are registered as a 501(c)4 — a social welfare organization. They are not a labour union.

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It seems every day there is some negative story about the 2021 season but I’ve never been able to ascertain what the drama is. The NHL is playing hockey despite the ridiculous new divisions, so what exactly is the problem with playing CFL football this summer?

-Peter Pederiva

There’s some good news, Peter.

The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are discussing plans to bring fans back to games this year, which is a step in the right direction.

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ president Craig Reynolds said they’ve been in contact with almost every NFL team that hosted fans in 2020 and that none of the games resulted in major issues with COVID-19.

The CFL is not as reliant on gate revenue as it once was, but it remains a major part of the league’s business model. Unlike the NFL or NHL, the CFL can’t survive long without fans in the stands.

With the new variants of the virus spreading, I’d be surprised if teams are allowed to fill stadiums to capacity at any point in 2021. Hopefully they’ll be able to operate at partial capacity before long.

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