Madani: the CFL fails to have ‘any kind of relevance’ for most of its off-season

Photo courtesy: Arash Madani

Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani doesn’t believe the Canadian Football League is doing nearly enough to remain relevant through its long off-season.

“What the CFL continues to fail at is to have any kind of relevance outside of maybe a few days from December to May and being off the grid for half the year is a major mistake,” Arash Madani told The Rod Pedersen Show.

“The CFL needs to find a way to continue to be in the sports conversation in this country in the off-season much more and much better than it is now and it’s ever done. It felt like for a few years like they were almost intentionally trying to stay quiet and trying to stay off the radar.”

The league launched CFL Week in 2017, which included a media “car wash” for dozens of star players, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction announcement, and the national combine. The inaugural event in Regina was deemed a massive success, generating 1,489 online articles nationwide and more than 351 million global media impressions.

Winnipeg held CFL Week the following year and again drew rave reviews from fans, players, and members of the media. The event was reportedly going to be held in Ottawa in 2019, though it was shelved as the league’s collective bargaining agreement soon set to expire.

The league never finalized plans to bring the event back for 2020, though it would likely have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic regardless. Now that pandemic restrictions are in the process of being lifted across the country, the CFL has an opportunity to reinvent the way in which it engages fans during the winter and spring.

“What are the steps forward that the league is taking just to be on anybody’s radar on the consciousness of a sports fan to be talking about? There’s a little bit of a blip in free agency when those within CFL circles get excited about things. What was the biggest move in free agency? Was it (Jeremiah) Masoli to Ottawa? I guess. Does that really move the needle?”

The CFL’s annual free agent frenzy generates a ton of interest — it’s a massive week for us at 3DownNation — but the rest of the off-season calendar is relatively bare. The CFL will never match the glitz and glamour of the NFL, but perhaps the three-down league can take a nod from its counterpart south of the border.

“The number one story right now south of the border in sports is not the Major League Baseball lockout. It’s certainly not the NHL. A little bit of the NBA all-star aftermath with Steph (Curry) and LeBron (James), but it’s where is Aaron Rodgers going?” said Madani.

“That’s the first domino that’s going to lead to the next series of dominos with Russell Wilson and what could this mean maybe for Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee? What about Carson Wentz and his landing spot?”

Whether its CFL Week or something new, it’s clear that the league has to do more to engage its fans during it’s long, wintery off-season.