Wednesday. Hump Day. Bleh Day. Well, not this past Wednesday. On March 7th, 2021 the CFL and XFL announced that
“The Canadian Football League (CFL) and XFL owners Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, and RedBird Capital have agreed to work together to identify opportunities for the leagues to collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football.”
Before anyone starts freaking out, one needs to look at this news from an analytical point of view. The CFL was unable to run a season in 2020 due to the pandemic. While there are varying reasons why this happened, the CFL reportedly lost around $60-80M dollars at the end of the day. Outside of the pandemic, the CFL was reportedly losing $20M a year, with 50% of the revenue from ticket sales. Like it or not, the CFL has been struggling and requires help.
The XFL reportedly lost 10s of millions of dollars as well due to the pandemic. It looks like these are two leagues that, no matter what fans think, have some great potential but are on financial life support. That is where this potential collaboration comes into play.
There is clearly a demand for an alternative football league to the NFL. Canadians love football just as much as Americans, and the CFL provides an opportunity for people to support teams more locally as well as get the in-person experience (at least until the pandemic started). The XFL could provide players unable to currently play in the NFL an American alternative. Both leagues have great potential, but for a multitude of reasons, are struggling right now. So what could this potential collaboration look like?
One such thing that I’d like to see is some crossover games between the two leagues. One of the biggest problems for the CFL is how small it is. As we’ve seen with the Canadian Division in the NHL this year, playing the same handful of teams over and over and over again gets boring pretty quickly for fans. Now imagine doing this every year for decades; that’s what we have right now in the CFL. Gone are the days of vicious rivalries where there is a pure and genuine hatred between two teams, two fanbases, two cities. Those sort of rivalries are very hard to find in North American sports these days.
With that said, the CFL needs to find ways to keep the league fresh and exciting for the next generation of fans. This younger generation can lose interest very quickly. That’s where the XFL and CFL can help each other bring together the best of both leagues to create a product that will help attract young fans. The CFL can’t survive off its current aging fanbase forever. At a certain point, it’s going to need to broaden its fanbase in terms of age and geographic location.
This same logic can be applied to the XFL. The XFL already understands the importance of being creative and innovative. While Americans love football, there are only so many leagues one can watch before getting bored. The XFL collaborating with the CFL and potentially adapting a few rules would bring a new level of innovation to America that would make the XFL unique.
Unfortunately, a collaboration with the XFL could also lead to a change in rules such as the three-down rule or the end of larger fields or 12 players. However, it is very unlikely that all the Canadian rules will be changed. The CFL has leverage in these discussions as they are the older league and have survived through all these generations. The three-down rule will most likely stay. Still, one cannot be stubborn and refuse to compromise. Collaborating with the XFL would be a saving grace in terms of TV revenue, and if this means losing some Canadian rules, then so be it.
CFL fans are very prideful. They love the Canadian game and strongly believe it’s the best version out there. Down south of the border, XFL fans believe that they have the best version of the game. However, no matter how hard anyone may deny it, the two leagues need help from each other. The XFL will help with financial problems and help bring more attention to the CFL, while Canadian teams will help bring uniqueness to the XFL. New teams and new fans from a country that is equally obsessed with football is always a good thing. We can’t speak for CFL fans or XFL fans, but we believe that keeping the CFL (and XFL) alive will be more important than adapting a few rules. Like it or not, this is the only way the two leagues will survive.
Written by Eddie Benhin & Cameron Chaddad