The CFL Global Draft was held Thursday, April 15 and teams made their picks from a variety of talent on offer in various parts of the world.
Players from as far afield as Australia, the UK, Japan, Germany, Denmark, France, South Africa, Nigeria, China and more were picked up by teams looking to bolster their rosters for what may or may not end up being a season in 2021.
Positions from punter, kicker and linebacker to offensive tackle and defensive end were filled. In total, 36 players from 18 countries were drafted.
This year’s draft was a fair bit different from the first one in 2019. In the first iteration, general managers, coaches and personnel guys were able to actually see players firsthand and conduct in-person interviews afterwards. This time, however, they had no such luxury because of the global pandemic.
Videotapes and interviews on Zoom were the order of the day.
So, how worthwhile was it?
“This time around there was more film study and discussions on how they would fit in from a football standpoint,” Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters told bluebombers.com.
“Last time it was more who has the competitiveness and who do we think can come in and learn and grow.”
And boom! That’s it right there. There is a heck of a difference between seeing a guy strut his stuff in a field setting as opposed to watching a video that frankly could be doctored. Teams have to take players at their word that what is on video is genuine.
“It’s just not the same now. It’s not the same, enjoyable experience,” said Walters. “Getting to see these kids in person and talk and to evaluate them is what I missed the most.”
Apart from the somewhat sterile environment that teams had to deal with when making their draft choices brought about by COVID-19 safety protocols, and therefore to a large extent having to roll the dice, is the issue of whether it was even worth their time and effort given that currently there is still no definitive answer as to whether there will be a CFL season this year.
The federal government has already turned down a CFL request for a $30 million interest-free loan it says it needs if fans aren’t allowed into stadiums. It’s déjà vu as we went through all of this last year and in the end, the board of governors cancelled the 2020 season.
If there is a season this year, and possibly an abbreviated one at that, and provincial health officials won’t allow fans in stadiums one wonders if teams might question the need to spend more on players’ salaries. And rest assured there are additional expenses when factoring in bringing guys to Canada from overseas.
Of course, teams may already have factored those costs into their budgets, but that would have been on the basis that there will be a 2021 season and that fans will be allowed to go to games.
As has been documented ad nauseum in the past year, the CFL is an attendance-driven league. That’s where it makes the bulk of its money, so without fans in the stands, its revenues will be severely dented.
Given that the coronavirus is not showing signs of easing up any time soon, particularly in places like Ontario, if there is to be a football season in 2021, teams need to be mindful of what they spend their money on, and therefore, it might make more sense for them to give global players a big miss this year.