With regular season games in England and the possibility – one day – of adding a franchise in London, the National Football League has certainly made a substantial international footprint.
But while its goals and approach are different, the Canadian Football League is stepping out as well.
In fact, its passport is already accumulating quite a few stamps.
On Tuesday, Brazil’s tackle football federation became the 13th such group to partner with the CFL as part of its International Alliance of Gridiron Football (IAGF).
“It is an honor to be part of this exciting partnership,” said Italo Mingoni, president of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol Americano (CBFA). “Our work together will showcase the talent and skill of Brazilian players on the world stage and further develop the foundations of the game in our country.”
Brazil is the first South American country to become part of the IAGF, joining Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway and Sweden.
“Our international partnerships now include the leading football federations and leagues in South America, Europe and Asia, as well as, Mexico,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said. “Together, we are building new pathways for players from around the world to seek opportunities in the CFL, for Canadians to play in other countries, and for the league to share its experiences and expertise on coaching, officiating and player development.”
The “mission statement” of the IAGF is as follows:
* Encourage more young people to try football, and to continue pursuing the game in all its forms – from a simple game of ‘catch’ to touch football, flag football, and tackle football at the amateur and professional levels.
* Build pathways which allow football players to fully follow their passion and fulfill their dreams, regardless of birthplace and unrestricted by borders.
* Share experiences and expertise in areas such as player health and safety, officiating, coaching and player development, and more, to develop best practices in each country.
* Seek new opportunities to serve fans with experiences that are deeper and more varied than ever, while attracting new fans and followers to the sport.
* Pursue revenue opportunities that elevate all members of the Alliance while exploiting none.
As an American who cheers for the CFL on and off the field, I’m for anything that helps the league grow stronger. And the movers and shakers pushing this initiative are doing more than just talking.
It started last season when CFL rosters featured designated “global players” (from outside Canada and the United States). Each of the nine teams could have up to three in 2019, while this summer a club may sign as many as five – two on the active roster and three assigned to the practice squad.
The athletes are chosen from combines held in member countries as well as a global draft, which is set to take place on April 16.
CFL Chief Financial Officer and Head of Football Operations, Greg Dick, oversees the combines.
Ambrosie also sees CFL regular season games being played outside of North America, possibly as early as the 2021 campaign.
This is a win-win for all involved, although ultimately I think the players who’ll benefit most will be the ones from Canadian universities.
With the CFL’s ratio rule that demands a minimum of 21 national players on a 46-player roster, there’s a limit to just how many global athletes will be able to find a football home in the league.
On the other hand, guys who played college ball in Canada but failed to make a CFL roster might be able to go pro abroad. Hopefully the addition of a 10th franchise in Halifax will soon increase domestic opportunities, but there will still be those left out. Many international leagues are quality circuits and getting better each year, and I’m guessing several clubs would gladly make room for experienced Canadian players.
“As we build a CFL that is both proudly Canadian and boldly international, we want to work with our partners, and see them work with one another, as we grow the game everywhere it’s played,” Ambrosie said. “That cooperation and unity is what this International Alliance of Gridiron Football is all about.”