Steve Simmons believes the CFL deserves financial support from the federal government

Photo courtesy: NHL

Longtime Toronto Sun sports columnist Steve Simmons believes the CFL deserves financial support from the federal government.

In his weekly Sunday column, Simmons lays out the reasons why the feds should help the three-down league return to play.

The government of Canada pays more than a billion dollars every year to keep the CBC afloat. It pays millions and millions to enable filmmakers to make movies in Canada, to help the television industry thrive, to provide funds for the arts and the ballet, and culture.

Probably as it should.

So why not money for the ailing Canadian Football League?

I don’t necessarily agree with any government assistance going to professional sports but in the climate of today and considering where government money has been targeted historically, I have less of a problem with money going to the CFL, which can’t put fans in the stands right now, to enable it to continue in 2021.

There is a government budget coming on Tuesday and no doubt there will be no handouts for the CFL. At the same time, the CFL board of governors will meet Tuesday and almost certainly will announce either a delay of the coming season or possibly a second straight cancellation. This is the backdrop of the ongoing meetings and negotiations and nonsense that is taking place between the CFL and Dwayne Johnson’s XFL.

Here’s what the CFL has that Canadian movies, for example, do not have. They have an audience. You may not like the audience or think it skews old — it does — but it’s there. It’s almost half-a-million a game in terms of television ratings historically. It’s probably 20,000 plus in live gate audience for regular season games and significantly more for that per game for Grey Cup and playoffs.

Without help externally, from government or XFL or gambling or elsewhere, I can’t see a CFL playing this season.

According to reports, the CFL collectively lost between $60 and $80 million not playing last season. Without an infusion of cash, either from the government, RedBird Capital, or the passing of single-game sports betting in Canada, the league would take another large financial hit regardless of what happens in 2021.

With the league likely to delay its schedule next week, and COVID cases rising, the CFL remains on shaky financial footing.