Monday Mailbag: CFL changes, potential XFL merger, expansion cities

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

You can submit a question via email ([email protected]) or direct message on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

When submitting questions via email, please type “Monday Mailbag” into the subject line. On social media, please start your message with the words “3DownNation Monday Mailbag.” This really helps us find and manage the questions we get.

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.

***

Hello John,

I wanted to write to you as I respect your work on a long-standing passion of mine — the CFL (and specifically I am a long time Calgary Stampeder fan). I realize that I am 52 years old. I realize I’ve been a fan of the CFL for almost all of those 52 years, I also realize the CFL wants/needs to attract a younger demographic.

Having said that I am still alive, my money STILL provides as much currency as does an 18-year-old’s. I don’t claim to always be right, but as with most things in life experience often provides wisdom, knowledge, and a perspective that youth doesn’t yet have.

Next, I want to be clear (and I am like most CFL fans that I know) I LOVE almost ALL brands of football, this includes the CFL, NFL, NCAA, and CIS. In all my years I have NEVER felt as though I had to choose only one brand to follow, that it was impossible to watch a CFL game, then an NFL game, and then an NCAA game. I do it all the time! I enjoy each for its own uniqueness, no different than how I like to watch an NHL game one night, and an NBA game the next.

I get so frustrated when I hear, “Oh you have to be willing to change” or the cliche, “Adapt or die.” Somehow just because I don’t want the CFL to completely sell its identity, this means I am the stereotypical “grumpy old man” who fears and objects to all and any change. This is simply not true, case in point — the league has “changed” significantly over the years with the following:

  • The league instituted instant replay and coaches challenges
  • The league completely updated/altered the overtime format
  • The league went to an 18-game season
  • The league reduced the number of required Canadian starters from 10 to 7
  • The league expanded into the United States (which I was originally for, then it became obvious it didn’t work; we tried, it crashed, and we moved on; this is OK, just don’t repeat your mistake)
  • The league has taken an initiative to include Global players

These were all “changes” that this “grumpy old man” was in favour of implementing to improve and evolve the game of Canadian football and preserve the CFL as the most entertaining brand of football in the world (in my opinion). There is change and then there is a complete destruction and creation of something completely different. Change, not replace.

-Mark Strocher

Thanks for the message, Mark.

You are absolutely correct — the CFL has already changed in many ways over the years. There’s no evidence that Canadians prefer four-down football to three-down football. None. The league’s business model could be improved, but the Canadian game works great as it is.

Every poll I’ve seen suggests that CFL fans would react negatively to changing the game — even young ones. Merging the leagues might help the CFL’s business model, but changing the rules beyond recognition would be an error.

***




Thanks for publishing my previous question, I do have a follow-up.

I knew there was no reasonable way for the two leagues to play a full interlocking schedule, I was just looking for confirmation from someone in the loop.

If it’s unreasonable for the two leagues to play an interlocking season then what is there to gain? How can they work together to improve the product for both leagues?

Thanks,

Grant

Thanks for the question, Grant.

The XFL has nothing to offer the CFL in terms of business practices, history, longevity, rules or name recognition. Period.

I don’t think the XFL can help the CFL improve its product, either. All it can do is provide short-term funding for the league and potentially help it earn more money from American television. That’s it.

***

I’m always reading that Halifax is the city that will tie the league together. But it seems this is tied to an ideal more than practicality. 

I think a city like London, Ont. would be a better city to court for expansion for the following reasons:

-500,000 people
-academic institutions, including U Sports programs to partner with
-strong business presence
-small, passionate market (Regina, Hamilton, Winnipeg)
-logistically, economically, strategically beneficial

The CFL needs to get into markets that would succeed and increase the value to it. Once enough cities are serviced with its brand, the population in trouble cities will see it more legitimately. 12 teams is very doable for this league (add London, Halifax, Québec City) but it has not been aggressive enough at investing in its own future.

Cheers,

Bayardo Canizalez

Thanks for the note, Bayardo.

Expansion always comes down to two things: ownership and stadiums.

One benefit of diversifying the CFL’s business model is that venues may not need to be as large as they’ve been in the past. As clubs become less reliant on gate revenue, putting new teams into smaller markets — and smaller buildings — could become more viable.

Without quality ownership, however, expansion is a non-issue. I believe the cities you mentioned could support a CFL team — I’d even add Victoria, Kitchener and Saskatoon as potential targets for expansion.

You just need a local, dedicated individual or group to ensure the bills are paid, which is easier said than done.

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