As a longtime fan of the Canadian Football League, I’m already a satisfied customer. There’s nothing the circuit needs to do to ensure my continued interest because as long as they play, I’ll follow.
But I have to give the movers and shakers of the league credit – they aren’t shy about testing unchartered waters.
Last weekend it was announced that the CFL was entering into a partnership with the British American Football Association, bringing the number of its international alliances to 10.
Aside from Great Britain, the CFL is now officially working with football organizations and/or leagues in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Norway and Sweden.
“This new relationship will help introduce Canadian football to a wider audience in the U.K. and allow us to develop all aspects of the British game – not just on the field, but from a business perspective, too,” BAFA Director Bruce Leatherman said. “There is so much we can learn through sharing knowledge and ideas, and we’re also hugely excited to have new opportunities for our coaches to develop and our players to grow and achieve their full potential.
“BAFA is delighted to be working in partnership with the CFL to grow the sport we all love.”
The BAFA oversees all levels of the gridiron game in Great Britain, from tackle to flag, and includes men, women and youth. Currently there are 78 adult teams which are community-based. That “from the ground up” philosophy is based on the business model of traditional association football clubs.
“BAFA brings a lot of energy, passion and knowledge to the movement, with its more than 10,000 male and female members playing for more than 250 university and club teams,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said. “We’re thrilled to work with our friends there to improve the game in Canada, Great Britain and around the world.”
Since all these international alliances are still in their infancy, there’s no way to predict what kind of impact they’ll ultimately have.
In theory, Canadian amateur players will have more options if they choose to play on beyond college, and the CFL will have a larger pool of prospects to choose from.
“We are expanding our international footprint, expanding our talent pool, and looking to create new broadcast and streaming markets for our games,” Ambrosie said. “At the same time, we want to contribute to and learn from leagues around the world and provide greater opportunities for Canadian players in other countries. Working together, we can make football even bigger and better everywhere.”
Of course a unique aspect of the CFL is its “Ratio Rule.” An active roster of 46 players has to include 21 Canadians (Nationals) and seven of them must be allotted starting positions.
This season the CFL added a “Global Player” pool which excludes Canadians and Americans. When the 2019 campaign began in June there were 24 global players plucked from a combine held in Mexico and international draft.
Perhaps in the future the global player allotment will be expanded to include more international athletes. And who knows? There could come a time when a skill position player hailing from one of the 10 countries the CFL is working with finds his way into the starting lineup.
What would be cool (although very expensive and, therefore, highly unlikely) would be some sort of international tournament featuring teams from each of the 10 organizations that have hooked up with the CFL.
All-Star squads or club champions from each association/federation could compete in a pool play (five teams per pool, four games guaranteed) format using Canadian rules, giving players a chance to show what they can do in front of CFL scouts and coaches.
Hey, I’d watch it.
I even know what to call it – the World League of Canadian Football.
Hmmm … maybe I’ll give the trademarks branch of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office a call, just in case.