I love Canada and I’m so bummed I can’t be in Ottawa for this sesquicentennial weekend. Whoever organized my OPFL Bantam football league should have recognized that this is a big holiday and NO games should have been scheduled.
Speaking of football, I would love to give Canada a gift for turning 150. My gift is a game plan for the next Canadian Football League Commissioner. As you know the league started its 2017 commissioner-less (not sure how that’s even possible), and the search has been remarkably quiet. So, I’m going to whip out my pot stirring spoon and apologize to all of you with feather allergies, as I itemize some suggestions.
They are free of charge on the surface. Of course, I have a hidden agenda. What coach doesn’t put a little deception in the game plan? A few fakes, a few tendency breakers, a few new formations just to game the opposition off balance. In fact, you can probably detect I have more than one agenda. Not letting your opponent know where you are really headed is always a great plan in business.
So here we go. One hundred and fifty, or so, suggestions for the next commissioner of the CFL. Happy Birthday Canada.
1. The Canadian Football League should become the umbrella organization for all things Football in this country. It should create an alliance between themselves School Sport Canada, Football Canada, NFL Canada, University Football, CJFL, OVFL, CEGEP, etc., etc. The job of the CFL should be to unite “football” in this country. If someone is a football fan, they are more likely to follow the CFL in some way or form. Why try to compete with the NFL? Work together. Grow the sport. Who cares if they carry the Vanier Cup on a different network than the CFL’s TV partner? Who cares! Those players are your future CFL stars. The CFL commissioner needs to be an ambassador of all things football. They should be at youth games, industrial league games, car washes, and more. Take the John Tory approach to being a mayor and stretch it from coast to coast. Why is there no football business conference or football fan expo or football coaches’ clinics or football summit in this country? Leadership is the only path to the end zone!
Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon played six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos and he won five straight Grey Cups from 1978-1982 while wearing the Green and Gold.
2. The CFL needs to grow the game. I know that sounds basic, but it’s vital. I challenge you to do a little test. Go to the CFL website and click on youth programs, or volunteer opportunities, or community football. It doesn’t exist. Where would you go if you wanted your child to sign up for a youth flag league or tackle league? What would you do if you moved to a new town and wanted to join an adult league? Where would you search if you wanted to see the best high school in your area? What about summer camps? The CFL should be the primary promoter of ensuring that the game is growing. More players = more parents = more fans = more money = more talent in twenty years = more stars = more fans = more talent. I would love to send my kid to a CFL branded overnight camp, where he would do all the camp things he loves to do and learn great skills. Imagine the CFL being able to offer more jobs to university grads, who aren’t quite ready for the first team, to stay in football either as a development period or go into coaching, managing, organizing, officiating, etc.
Doug Flutie Toronto Argonauts 1996 1997 grey cup winner 1992 96 97. CFL most outstanding player 1991 1994 1996 1997.
3. The CFL needs to understand that they are not just the overseer of the sport and its growth, but also its business. The CFL needs to drive the football business at every level. Licensed goods, camps, better sponsorships and more partnerships at every level. They need to have college courses teaching the business of football. They need to teach community organizers how to manage leagues. They need to get business partners who will promote the game. They need to rebuild the Grey Cup festival model from the ground up. Between government, businesses, wealthy individuals, and the public, the CFL needs to raise a megafund for investment in the game. Why am I as a Canadian Pittsburgh Steeler fan also a Green Bay Packers Shareholder? Because they gave me the opportunity to invest in FOOTBALL! When I bought my stock five years ago they raised $67 million in 6 weeks selling shares at $250 each. SXTY-SEVEN MILLION! It’s worthless paper folks. Come to my office if you want to take a picture!
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) spots a receiver through the rain during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Regina on Saturday, October 22, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor)
4. The CFL needs to rebrand as the “small c, cFL” until they truly become the CFL. Confused? Well my map of Canada doesn’t stop at Montreal. The league needs to stretch coast to coast to coast. It is time to put a team in Halifax or Moncton, one in Quebec City, and one in Whitehorse. The Atlantic Schooner faithful have waited long enough. Let’s give Atlantic Canada the major-league team it deserves. There is enough money and more than enough beer to support a team. Quebec City? Laval stole the market from the CFL some say. I say Laval educated and trained the market. The league should draft off that. Imagine the rivalry between Montreal and Quebec City if they both had CFL teams. Plus, Quebec is a province-wide hotbed for the sport already. The North is a frontier worth exploring. Imagine the opportunities to help economic development, build programming and provide role models by having a team in one of the territories. Travel costs could be managed by teams going up and playing two games over six days as an extended road trip. In between, they could practice and do community programming. Our federal government needs to provide solutions to northern issues, and a sports experience could be a great one.
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant during a game against the Calgary Stampeders in Regina, Sask., Friday, July 5, 2013. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)
5. I am not suggesting the CFL expand into the US again. Having teams practice in a parking lot (which Los Vegas did), doesn’t help the brand. But, the CFL needs a North American marketing strategy. Being broadcasted on ESPN12 isn’t enough. One third of Americans say pro football is their favorite sport and half of Americans are pro football fans. College football isn’t far behind. With most CFL players being American, doesn’t it make sense to build a long-term approach to targeting Americans? They love football. Merchandise programs. Sport tourism. Fan Expos. Player tours. Cross-border sponsorship. Is it out of bounds to cross the border and suck some money out of a massive market? You can’t tell me that college fans of a US star now playing in Vancouver wouldn’t want to come for a weekend, watch a game, and see an amazing city all at once? What about a CFL All-Star game in the same city and on the same weekend as the Pro Bowl? Has anyone ever asked the NFL to co-host? How about a Canada vs USA CFL showdown? Why not do one or two regular season games in the USA in football starved markets, like the NFL does in England? I bet if you measured the total Canadian Football GDP and the US Football GDP, the CFL would only need to capture 1-2% to double their business!
Ralph Deiter Brock Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback 1983.
6. The CFL should own emerging and niche markets. Why introduce new Canadians to hockey? Learning to skate isn’t easy, but running is a common element of most sports from around the world. Buying equipment is expensive. Youth football is unique in that the equipment is provided. Football builds instant camaraderie and friendships. My son’s youth team has kids on our team that were born in Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, and even the US of A! The CFL should be waiting at the border for all shapes and sizes, because football is a sport for every body type. The CFL should expand that approach to marginalized Canadians. Canadians who have been here before Confederation. Canadians with various degrees of physical and intellectual abilities. Partnerships with Special Olympics and the Canadian Paralympic Committee are a must do. Working with indigenous groups is obvious. Creating special programs for LGBTQ. Driving growth in women’s football is so obvious to me, I don’t know why it hasn’t been tackled. Right now, the Women’s World Championships are happening in British Columbia this week, but who knew? The best player on my bantam team last year as was young woman. She was defensive MVP. This year she retired to coaching at 15, because there is nowhere for her to play!
Ottawa Rough Riders rookie quarterback (6) J.C. Watts. from Oklahoma. guided time to 20-1 halftime lead in Ottawa’s last Grey Cup.
Hey CFL Owners, if you like my ideas enough and want someone to implement them, just give me a call. I’m ready for my interview!
PS – I have loved the CFL since I watched Russ Jackson, Condredge Holloway, Tom Clements, JC Watts.
PS2 – I have been a volunteer football coach since 1994.
PS3 – I coach three teams a year right now.
PS4 – I have worked with the CFL, Canadian Football Hall of Fame, NFL Canada, numerous league sponsors, CIAU/OUAA/OUA/U Sports/CIS.
PS5 – I have attended at least twenty Grey Cups.
PS6 – I have attended at least fifteen Vanier Cups.
PS7 – My first Vanier Cup was as a student reporter covering the Guelph Gryphons 1984 win over Mount Allison.
PS8 – My sister was a cheerleader at Western.
PS9- Don’t ask her to do a cartwheel now.
PS10- I am only jealous because I could never do one.