‘That’s the fabric of the CFL’: Analyst Natey Adjei believes more fans could be lost than gained in potential four down switch

Photo courtesy: Natey Adjei

The idea that the CFL is contemplating an offseason shift to a four down game has rubbed many across the league the wrong way and you can count Natey Adjei among those doubting the merits of that proposed rule change.

The former receiver for the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Elks and current Argos colour commentator was part of the radio team covering the Grey Cup and bristled at commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s insistence that all aspects of the CFL game would be looked at.

“I appreciate that they’re doing that. They’re trying to make the game more attractive because that’s the big thing. We want more eyeballs watching the CFL, attracting younger viewers, bring in more betting so more people are locked into these games, but I’m not sure four downs is the way to go,” he told the Rod Pedersen Show on Friday. “I mean, that’s the fabric of the CFL. That’s what makes the CFL great.”

Proponents of the potential down addition believe that a four down CFL would have more offence and be more palatable to a lost generation of Canadian football fans that are more familiar with the NFL style of game.

Many have disagreed, including 3Down’s own John Hodge, TSN colour commentator Glen Suitor, and Canadian Football Hall of Famer Milt Stegall. Each believes that three downs is fundamental to the Canadian game and far from the issue keeping young fans from jumping on the board, something Adjei reiterated.

“I don’t think the downs are the reason why people aren’t watching. There’s numerous other reasons why people aren’t watching the football,” he said.

“I always think about this: the CFL is closer to the NFL than the MLS is to English Premier League football, soccer. Why isn’t the CFL as popular as the MLS is? They’ve got to figure out why the younger generation isn’t gravitating towards football the way they should be, because we both know the talent level is closer to the highest level of football than the MLS is.”

Adding a down is not a marketing fix in and of itself and if the CFL is not careful, it may lose more that it gains in the process.

“Tinkering with the downs and alienating fans that have been following the league for a long time is probably not the way to go,” Adjei said. “You want to try to include everyone in this next step that you’re taking and I think the downs is too drastic of a change. You may lose too many people towards the goal that you’re trying to get to.”