Former Riders president Jim Hopson: CFL can succeed ‘being uniquely Canadian’

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders chief operating officer and president Jim Hopson believes the Canadian Football League can prosper on its own.

Hopson led the Riders franchise from 2005 to 2014, the green and white won the Grey Cup two times during his tenure, 2007 and on home soil in 2013. The Riders had record profits while Hopson was in office and he was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

“We will grow and succeed by being uniquely Canadian and not NFL lite,” Hopson told Regina Leader-Post reporter Rob Vanstone.

“The talent is there to expand Canadian starter numbers. In our run of 2007 to 2010, we were starting eight, nine and even 10 Canadians.”

Currently, CFL teams must start at least seven Canadians out of the 24 starters on a game-day roster to meet the ratio requirements. If the three-down league merges with the XFL, there are many people across the country who feel the national content could be thrown by the wayside.

The owners from both leagues have agreed to work together to identify opportunities for both to collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football. With the CFL and XFL openly talking, many believe a full merger is in the works, and The Rock’s latest comments appear to be an indication that is the case.

Even though Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Wade Miller denied the potential partnership is due to the league’s financial struggles, the sentiment around the CFL office is Dwayne Johnson and RedBird Capital could provide increased cash flow and revenue opportunities. However, passionate followers wonder what the league will have to sacrifice from its Canadian traditions.

The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million in 2020 after cancelling its season. That came immediately after the federal government let the league know there would not be a $30-million interest-free loan to fund a hub city in the Manitoba capital.

It’s clear the league needs a cash infusion to play football based on the ask of the feds last year, and the XFL can provide it. However, there are pundits pointing out the need for increased transparency from the CFL to be able to trust any decision which puts the history of the league in harms way.

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