Monday Mailbag: government assistance, CFL attendance, rule changes

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

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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.

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Is it possible the CFL is leaking the XFL merger talks to strengthen their position with the Canadian government for financial assistance or stadium capacity flexibility? If they merge with the XFL they won’t be around in three years. Americans will bet on the CFL with or without the XFL tie-in.

-Rush Sanders

Thanks for the question, Rush.

I suppose anything is possible, but that’s not the read I get on a potential CFL-XFL merger. The CFL made a public statement confirming the talks back in March but has said nothing since. All of the leaks regarding negotiations have come from the American side, not the Canadian side. That wouldn’t happen if the CFL was merely using the XFL for leverage.

We also shouldn’t forget that Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault gave an exclusive statement to 3DownNation last year in which he provided strong support for the CFL.

“Football and sports are an important part of the life of many Canadians, allowing good-natured rivalries between teams to unite the country in a common passion for the game,” he said. “We will continue to engage directly with the CFL and its teams to ensure they’re around for many years to come. Our government remains committed to work with businesses of all sizes across the country, including the CFL, to support strong, safe and sustainable recoveries.”

I’m sure the CFL wants more leverage in its talks with the federal government, but I don’t believe that’s the primary reason these XFL discussions are taking place. They’re for real.

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There has been a lot of talk about how Toronto, B.C., and Montreal are losing lots of money. There has also been talk about how it wasn’t always like that with Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Ottawa once being the dogs in the league.

I’m wondering how much of the fortunes of the different markets are based on the market itself, or is it how the team does on the field that is the main driver to get fans in the stands. From what I see the teams that are losing money are also the ones that have been losing on the field for many years in a row.

How consistent and stable are any of the markets?

-Richard Granger

Thanks, for the question, Richard.

I noticed something interesting when doing a historical analysis of CFL attendance for the past fifty years. In Vancouver, attendance generally improved following a Grey Cup win, including B.C.’s most recent title in 2011. In Toronto, attendance often plummeted in the years following a championship. It’s bizarre.

Hamilton made the playoffs every year in the 1980s, yet it was the worst decade in team history for ticket sales. Winnipeg was awful throughout the 1970s, yet attendance improved only modestly during the dynasty of the 1980s. Toronto’s attendance was poor during the Doug Flutie years of the 1990s despite ticket sales being strong during the 1970s and 1980s while the team generally struggled.

There seems to be little correlation between winning and attendance. Why? I don’t know. It’s likely a combination of factors including marketing and the city’s economy.

In Bob Ackles’ autobiography The Water Boy, he wrote that engaging labour unions was key to generating a resurgence in ticket sales in Vancouver. He created a program in which workers could have a small percentage of their cheques held back each month and put toward season tickets for the Lions. It was a popular program.

Teams don’t have to win to attract fans. They just have to engage the community and create a fun atmosphere at the games.

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I love the three-down game but I wonder about some of the rules. Why is no yards never called when there is an onside kick?

-Stan F.

Thanks for the question, Stan.

No yards has only ever applied to punts, field goals or converts — not kickoffs. The ball is always live following a kickoff after it travels ten yards. This usually isn’t noticeable because the returner catches the ball so deep in their own territory.

Something I think we’ve forgotten amid these XFL merger talks is that the CFL changes its rules every year. The alterations are usually minor, but the game never stays 100 percent the same. It’s never “perfect” or “complete.” It’s always being tweaked and (hopefully) improved.

Let’s try to remember that when and if a merger takes place.

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