‘A significant number of people in Canada prefer four-down football’: Dave Naylor sees CFL-XFL merger as a four-down league

Since the CFL and XFL released a joint statement saying the two leagues have agreed to work together to identify opportunities for both to innovate and grow the game of football, speculation has run rampant about what a merged league would look like.

Dave Naylor believes that it would drift away from the Canadian game in at least one key aspect.

“The speculation and the suggestions I hear are that it would be a four-down game,” Naylor told Mark Nelson of XFL Board.

That is a devastating blow to CFL fans, but Naylor insists that this change wouldn’t only cater to fans south of the line.

“Everybody in the US prefers four-down football. It’s what they know, what they like. And, there’s a significant number of people in Canada that prefer four-down football,” Naylor explained.

Canadian interest in the NFL has grown substantially over the last five years. Interest in college football has not, indicating that it is the glitz and glamour of the NFL rather than the amount of downs played that influences consumers.

The CFL has been awarding the Grey Cup for over 100 years. Meanwhile, the original XFL lasted one full season in 2001. The XFL lasted just part of one season before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy.

Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future.

The Rock has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’ Adapting to four downs will help that creation gain traction in the gambling sphere and also advance the cause of Global expansion that Naylor believes is driving talks.

“If you are going to take this league international, the global game is four-downs,” he noted.

The CFL is in desperate need of financial help after losing between $60 and $80 million last year and the XFL’s cheque book could solve that problem, but potentially at the cost of many of the league’s hallmarks.

Should the league refuse its advances in order to hold onto three down traditions, it could have dire consequences.

“The CFL is at a fork in the road where it needs to either become a smaller league or a bigger league,” Naylor said.

“A nine-team league with the budgets and the salaries, staffs and the numbers of players that they have right now, may not be an option… I think if you’re talking about keeping the CFL Canadian, you’re talking about smaller budgets, smaller coaching staff, smaller rosters, smaller everything, and maybe a smaller number of teams.”

Is maintaining your soul worth that cost? The CFL Board of Governors may not believe so.

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