Here’s what we know about the age demographics of CFL fans

I wrote a column this past weekend about why the CFL’s business model isn’t broken. It generated a lot of discussion on social media and led to a debate between TSN’s Dave Naylor and me on the 3DownNation Podcast.

One of the areas of the debate surrounds the average age of CFL fans. There’s very little research that’s been done about this topic, which leaves the conversation open to anecdotes and observations about the crowds across our country.

The Sports Business Journal has performed research on the average age of sports fans in the United States. This is what the data shows.

SPORT AVG. AGE 2000 AVG. AGE 2006 AVG. AGE 2016
PGA Tour N/A 59 64
LPGA N/A 59 63
Horse racing 51 56 63
ATP tennis 51 56 61
NASCAR N/A 49 58
MLB 52 52 57
WNBA 42 49 55
WTA Tennis 58 63 55
Olympics 45 50 53
College football 47 48 52
College basketball 44 48 52
NFL 44 46 50
Boxing 45 47 49
NHL 33 42 49
NBA 40 40 42
MLS N/A 39 40


With the exception of WTA Tennis, every sports league/affiliate saw an increase in the age of its average viewership from 2000 to 2016. The PGA Tour has the oldest average fan at 64 years of age, while MLS has the youngest average fan at 40.

The Sports Business Journal doesn’t provide data for the CFL. The most recent formal study regarding the age of CFL fans that I can find was conducted by the Angus Red Institute in 2018.

The poll concluded that among men age 18-34, 23 per cent follow the NFL compared to 16 per cent who follow the CFL. That’s a troubling trend given that 23 per cent of men in the same age range identified as CFL fans in 2014.

Among men age 35-54, 37 per cent follow the NFL compared to 29 per cent who follow the CFL. 33 per cent of men in the same age range said they followed the CFL in 2014, which is another negative trend.

The CFL has gained in popularity in men over the age of 55. 39 per cent said they followed the CFL in 2018 compared to 35 per cent in 2014. That’s a positive development, but probably not the demographic the CFL is most hoping to attract.

Among women, interest in the CFL is consistent regardless of age. 13 percent of Canadian women in all three age categories — 18-34, 35-54, and 55-plus — identify as fans of the CFL.

The research also showed that interest in the CFL and NFL is almost exactly equal overall in Canada. Among 713 football watchers, 39 per cent preferred the CFL, 39 per cent preferred the NFL, and 22 per cent had no preference. It was a perfect split between the two leagues.

Canadians are split on this issue geographically as B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Maritimes reported a strong preference for the CFL over the NFL. Football fans are the opposite in Ontario and Quebec where they much prefer the NFL over the CFL.

It’s obvious that the average age of a CFL fan has increased from 2014 to 2018 but by exactly how much remains unclear. It’s also impossible to say how much the average CFL fan has aged in comparison to the leagues listed in the Sports Business Journal‘s research.

Something I didn’t think to check until Tuesday — which is foolish, in retrospect — was the data from our own website.

3DownNation has been around since May 2015. At the risk of sounding self-important, we have grown into a well-known brand with millions of Canadian visitors. It’s not a perfect sample size — one could argue older fans are more likely to consume print media than digital media — but they’re a decent starting point.

Here’s what Google Analytics tells us about our age demographics over almost six years of readership on 3DownNation.

22.23 per cent of our traffic is 25-34.

21.81 per cent of our traffic is 45-54.

21.54 per cent of our traffic is 35-44.

17.34 per cent of our traffic is 55-64.

9.45 per cent of our traffic is 65-plus.

7.62 per cent of our traffic is 18-24.

Note: Google Analytics does not track data on people under the age of 18.

Our smallest demographic of readership is people age 18-24, which is a problem. That’s a key demographic and there’s no doubt the CFL — and us at 3DownNation — want to enhance that number in years to come.

With that said, the 25-34 demographic is our strongest group at 22.23 per cent of readership, which is very encouraging. The 45-54 crowd is right behind that, followed closely by the 35-44 demographic.

Two-thirds of our readership is 25-54. Does that match what we see in stadiums across the CFL? I’m not sure.

I’ve asked all nine CFL teams for the average age of their season tickets holders. If and when they get back to me with answers, I’ll report the numbers here and/or my Twitter account.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.