There are 150 million reasons to worry about the immediate future of the CFL. And every one of them is a Canadian dollar.
I say this following a plea made by the league Commissioner Randy Ambrosie. A plea made for $150 million to the standing committee on finance in Canada’s House of Commons last week.
Further lobbying, reported by 3downnation, for that 150 million followed on the 11th May. This time the CFL was lobbying David Lametti the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada & Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
How that 150 Million breaks Down
Ambrosie has been keen to point out that the CFL does not have big TV revenues like some of the bigger North American leagues.
Their model is led by ticket sales. There is certainly an argument to be had about the league operating this kind of strategy in the world of the modern multi-media platform. This doesn’t dismiss the fact however that the shutdown due to Covid-19 has impacted the league revenues.
The 150 million dollar request is broken into three parts. $30 million now to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 to this point. Further assistance for a shortened season. Then up to $120 million should the 2020 season never get played.
The CFL in context
Most of our readers are NFL fans. If you’ve grown up watching the NFL or come into it recently you know one thing. The NFL has money. Because of that this may seem like a very strange situation.
This is not however to say the CFL should be ignored. Whilst the NFL has just celebrated its’ 100th season, football under formalized rules has been played in Canada since the 1860s.
The CFL itself is 62 years old. (How far it now seems from the celebrations when it passed sixty).
The second most important pro league in the world?
The CFL could argue that after the NFL it is the second most important pro American Football league in the world.
It certainly has the history. There was ‘the catch‘ and the ‘fog bowl‘ in Canada long before the NFL iteration of either occurred. Nor is it some short lived concern. During the league’s sixty years it has seen the likes of the WFL , USFL, the much missed WLAF (latterly NFL Europe), XFL, AAF, XFL 2.0 & more come and go.
The CFL is a league that has had plenty of ups and downs during that time. And faced down the problems of under-funding more than once. But that won’t stop fans worrying. How much of an impact could that 150 millions dollars have? If the league survives would all the teams? All these questions and more are being floated.
A Personal View
I am not a Canadian taxpayer. So I have no right to talk about whether the CFL should be bailed out in this way or not.
There are impassioned voices on both sides of the argument. From those who think this is about protecting a part of national cultural heritage. To those who argue it is a business and be treated as any failing business would.
Of course I want to see the CFL play (even an abridged season) in 2020. But I also know that any decision on that should be taken with healthcare concerns squarely at the forefront, backed by reasonable preparations for any second or third wave of the virus.
Of course I want to see the CFL survive as it stands. How far & how quickly we have fallen from talk of expansion to fear of contraction!
But what I want is not important. For CFL fans the key will be to see if the league can adapt and survive. Perhaps even develop a new operating plan in the future. ( For example, want to sell me a minority ‘share’ in the league that I can frame & gives me a discount on merchandise? I’m there.) It will be down to better minds than mine to sort out these 150 million reasons for concern.
Woven into the fabric of the country
To me, looking on with foreign eyes, the CFL is as Canadian as maple syrup, poutine, butter tarts, Beaver Tails and the warm kind-hearted spirit of the Canadian people themselves which is embodied in the online ‘CFL Family’ community.
So of course I hope the league goes on. I want it carry on with all its teams and develop in the future. All of that wanting and hope is set against the 150 million reasons to worry.
Whatever happens, and however the CFL looks a the end of it is going to be fascinating to see. And when whatever happens does happen, we’ll be adding to our growing CFL presence right here on Ninety-Nine Yards.
Banner Image: Just another 149 million to go. Canadian dollar celebrating the 100th Grey Cup from numista.com