Monday Mailbag: could the Toronto Argonauts really end up in the XFL?

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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I’ve heard a rumour that the Toronto Argonauts may leave the CFL to join the XFL in 2023. Is that something they can legally do? Can a team owner take a team and leave?

-Grant Duguay

Thanks for the question, Grant.

The impression I’ve received from sources is that yes, the Toronto Argonauts could technically leave the CFL and join the XFL. It wouldn’t be a seamless transition, but it’s possible.

The club would be able to keep its logo, name, and colours, though they’d have to negotiate new contracts with all of their players. It’s explicitly stated in player contracts that they are registered exclusively with the CFL, so they would be impossible to enforce in the event that the team changed leagues.

CFL coaches and personnel people don’t have a union, so it’s possible that the Argos could keep their front office staff even with a shift to the XFL.

It’s no secret that Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) was one of the driving forces behind a potential collaboration or merger between the CFL and XFL. The Argos are haemorrhaging money and it’s clear the team has no easy path to profitability with the league’s current business model. There’s no guarantee things would improve as part of an American league, but the team has nothing to lose.

Leadership across the CFL was not on the same page when it came to a potential collaboration with the XFL. The Edmonton Elks released a statement moments after the talks ended indicating they were “pleased” and “remain fully committed to the CFL and our treasured brand of Canadian football.” If that doesn’t show how polarizing this issue was at the executive level, I’m not sure what will.

Like any professional sports league, many of the people near the top of the CFL are ego-driven. They desire a sense of control and they want to be respected for what they have accomplished in their respective markets.

As much as I personally believe that talks between the CFL and XFL were never worth pursuing, there’s no denying that MLSE has achieved some amazing things.

The Maple Leafs have always been huge in Toronto, sure, but the way they’ve turned the Raptors into a money-printing national brand is pretty incredible. They also started Toronto FC from scratch and built them into Major League Soccer champions with a dedicated, diverse fan base.

If MLSE truly believes that the Argos would be better-off playing in the XFL, it stands to reason that they’ll make the leap. But I don’t believe that’s true.

The Toronto Star has a poll embedded in the original report that Toronto could leave for the XFL in 2023. 69.3 percent of respondents indicated they want the Argos to remain in the CFL and “play Canadian football,” compared to 25.2 percent of respondents who want the team to depart for the XFL and “try something new.”

These figures match virtually every poll I’ve seen regarding a potential collaboration or merger between the CFL and XFL. Canadians have strongly indicated they do not want things to change, which would only make the Argos a tougher sell in Toronto if they swapped leagues.

I believe the reason these rumours are swirling is because they provide some leverage for the Argos. As much as Toronto draws poor crowds, having a team in Canada’s largest city is important for attracting national sponsors and media attention. The rest of the league knows this, which could increase their willingness to negotiate with MLSE.

The first big item to come out since the CFL and XFL broke off talks is revenue sharing, which could revolutionize CFL business operations. It’s likely that teams will start sharing revenue in the near future, that will help struggling markets like Toronto, Montreal, and B.C.

The Toronto Argonauts should be able to depart for the XFL if they want to in 2023, but I don’t see it happening. I believe this is something Toronto is using for leverage as the CFL reevaluates its business model to maximize future success.




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