The CFL and players’ association are headed towards another heated off-season of collective bargaining and one of the league’s most well-respected specialists has fired a blistering opening salvo.
Ottawa Redblacks punter Richie Leone made an appearance on TSN 1200’s The Drive and found himself faced with the question of the day concerning the excess of player movement in the CFL since the inception of one-year contracts. Never one to be shy, Leone placed blame for the issue directly on the league while bemoaning the lack of business input from players.
“I think it’s up to the big brains at the league office — if you want to call it big brains — to figure out what to do. I mean, look at a guy like me, would I sign a couple year deal in Ottawa? Yeah, I absolutely would. We need guys to do that, but the league needs to change and it needs to be more beneficial for us,” he said.
“I’ve said this before, ever since I’ve been in the league, people talk about the business model’s broken. Well, hey, guess what, do we have business guys running this league or not? Because, I certainly have a few ideas that I’d like to bring up and I don’t have a seat at the table.”
Pressed on just what some of those ideas might be, Leone zeroed in on the league’s sub-par leveraging of social media and technology as the key reason for business failings.
“This is the easiest thing of all time. We live in the golden age of being able to churn out content — we have zero,” Leone critiqued. “Our guy Josh [O’Connor] for the Redblacks does a great job, he turns out a lot of cool stuff. You saw that schedule unveil, I’m pretty sure no other team in the CFL had a cool schedule unveil like we did, but the league doesn’t do anything — they do absolutely nothing.”
The league’s failure to keep on the cutting edge of social media with apps like TikTok has long been a criticized by CFL fans, as has their lack of original video content. In Leone’s opinion, that has spilled over into TSN broadcasts, which lack any meaningful player-driven content to hook new fans.
“You watch these pre-game shows for NFL games and they make it seem like Erin Andrews is sitting down with a player and they talked about his story, talked about them, highlights the players, shows the coolest stuff in the world and we can’t even…,” Leone said, changing his thought mid-sentence.
“They do that for the Grey Cup, they make a couple commercials, and might I add you that these commercials have fans like in their living room cheering, wearing [non-CFL] brands. They’re not even talking about the players on the field, which makes me mad.”
A refreshed approach to content creation, both in and out of games, could do wonders for the league’s limping business. The CFL’s failure to do so unprompted is simply unacceptable in the modern age, according to Leone.
“We live in an age where it doesn’t cost too much and it’s certainly not difficult [to produce content.] There’s seven-year-old boys and girls that make TikTok videos that go viral and we can’t even get anything out there that’s cool,” he finished with obvious frustration.
“Make something cool, guys, I challenge you on that.”