When the news was announced just a few days ago that the CFL and the XFL would be working together, it didn’t take long to see the overwhelming blowback the CFL received from some of its biggest fans.
Fans have their reasons for why they are worried about these talks, and it’s hard to fault them for feeling this way. After all, these people love the Canadian game and wouldn’t want it changed for the world. For as great as the CFL game is, there are some positives that could come from this that could take the CFL to the next level.
First and foremost, no one wants to see the CFL ditch the Canadian style of football except for people who don’t watch the league to begin with. In the absolutely ideal situation for the CFL, the XFL would be absorbed and all of its franchises would begin playing Canadian football. We don’t live in an ideal world and things will have to be adjusted, but that doesn’t mean things are bad.
But let’s take a step back for a second. As of right now, nothing about this potential partnership is known, all we know is that the two leagues are talking to each other about how they can “collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football.”
Is it possible that this conversation could lead to a merger of the two leagues? It could be. If you want to find a conversation about what that could mean, listen to episode 55 of the 13th Man Podcast where we had an in-depth conversation about what a merger could look like. But this isn’t guaranteed to be a merger. It could be something else.
I won’t pretend to have all of the answers or say for certain that whatever this talk is that it will work without chance of failing, but what I can say is we should at least listen to what the two leagues have in store before saying you won’t watch another game.
Right now, the CFL is broken. There simply aren’t enough young people interested in going to a game right now, especially in markets like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. This is a big issue for the league and its viability in the future, and while things weren’t going the worst before the pandemic, it has expedited the process of issues.
So how do you grow that fan interest? Well, it’s certainly not easy. No one has been able to figure that out yet, and it was clear that what was happening before Randy Ambrosie wouldn’t work with him either. He has taken action that previous commissioners never would have thought of. He has taken the Canadien global, or at least tried to depending on who you ask, and is now in talks with the XFL.
While you may disagree with what Ambrosie has done, he is doing something different to try and keep the CFL’s head above the ever-increasing water line. If doing anything with the XFL can help with that, you should absolutely expect Ambrosie to take the gamble.
It’s hard to imagine American football being played at stadiums in Canada, but it’s even harder to imagine no football being played at our stadiums. If that’s what it comes down to, give me American football every day of the week. Is it going to come to that? We don’t know and we will have to wait to find out, but it is possible.
On the positive side of things, let’s think about getting this football league into markets like St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego. American markets that care about football and have previously supported NFL teams that are now looking for anything to watch. Imagine getting the CFL in there. Sell them the Canadian rules (hopefully) and you could grow the game like that.
Of course, there would be a catch. It isn’t worth getting into all of the possibilities, but it can be very exciting. There are far too many things this could end up being to be too worried about it right now. Take a deep breath and prepare for some changes. They won’t all be bad and it should help keep football in our communities for the foreseeable future, something that is far from guaranteed right now.