EDMONTON -- Progress is being made towards a bigger, better, stronger Canadian Football League, Commissioner Randy Ambrosie told his annual State of the League news conference today.
“We want to grow our game and our league within this country and expand their influence and footprint beyond our own borders,” said Ambrosie, now in his second year as the CFL’s 14th Commissioner.
“The 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw this Sunday, and this week’s Grey Cup Festival 2018, showcase the greatness of our game, the strength of our brand and the support of our great fans. But we can still be a bigger, better, stronger Canadian Football League.”
Ambrosie cited several highlights in 2018:
- Television ratings for the CFL on TSN and RDS grew by 15 percent in the important 18 to 49 demographic and five percent overall.
- Soaring online engagement also indicated the league’s fan base is getting younger: 3.5 million people followed CFL social media channels, TSN CFL fantasy had twice as many players, traffic on CFL.ca was up 25 percent and page views on the site exceeded 35 million.
- CFL games were fast-paced and close, with 60 percent of games being decided in the final three minutes and penalties down eight percent.
- Steady progress is being made towards the addition of a tenth franchise in Halifax, where the Maritime Football Partnership has identified a potential site for a stadium, launched a season ticket drive and is expected to announce a team name for a possible team soon.
- In the first full year of a ban on padded practices, which saw the league also extends the season and add another bye week per team, man games lost due to injury were down ten percent and injuries occurring at practice were down 35 percent.
“We have educated and warned players, changed rules and levied higher fines and even suspensions, all in an effort to eliminate reckless play and remove high hits from the game,” Ambrosie said.
“For our finals and championship, we have added an eighth official whose only focus is hits to the neck or head of the quarterback. But there is clearly more work to be done and we will continue this winter to look for more steps forward.”
Ambrosie described the vision for CFL 2.0, which has three main points of emphasis: using best practices and modern analytics to better serve fans and attract new ones, expanding participation in football and flag football for boys and girls in particular, and expanding the league’s international outlook and footprint.
“There are more than 30 countries in the world that play gridiron football. Other leagues and sports have grown their profile, talent base and revenue streams by taking a more global approach and so should we,” Ambrosie said.
“Young Canadian football players who hope to play in the CFL can continue to develop in other leagues in other countries, players from those places can aspire to join the CFL, and we can seek television deals, digital exposure and other opportunities in global markets.”
Following questions, Ambrosie capped his news conference by signing a letter of intent on behalf of the CFL with representatives of Mexico’s Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional (LFA). It will see the two leagues work together on several projects including possible CFL games in Mexico.
Ambrosie described it as a first step towards a larger international presence for the CFL.
The State of the League news conference takes place each year in the days prior to the CFL’s championship game. This year’s edition, the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw, takes place Sunday, November 25th at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton at 4:00 pm MT/6:00 pm ET. The game between the Ottawa REDBLACKS face the Calgary Stampeders can be seen on TSN and RDS in Canada.