The Grey Cup is only days away, but it won’t be the biggest battle for the CFL in the near future. This CFL offseason has the potential to make-or-break the league.
The CFL has an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), meaning that players and owners have to negotiate a new deal to better the league and this often goes wrong. See all the NHL lockouts for reference.
In this case, however, the expiring CBA is actually a good thing for the league. With the Alliance of American Football (AAF) coming in next year and Vince Mcmahon’s XFL rebirth pending, the CFL will face more competition in the non-NFL market than ever before. While they might not have to broadcast at the same time, theoretically not competing for viewers, the quality of the CFL is at risk of being watered down. If the CFL can change the CBA and raise minimum salaries, and allow players to freely go to the NFL and make other positive changes, they might be able to compete.
Not all of these leagues are guaranteed to survive beyond a few years.
Too many leagues coming in at once is bound to hurt them all. For the CFL, will players move down south, often closer to home to play football in the sun rather than the snow-bowls they have to trek through in the CFL’s winter months? What can the XFL do to make sure people don’t treat it as a joke? Or will they bring a new take on football that brings over American viewers when Sun-day isn’t here yet? Will the AAF just become a glorified minor-league to the NFL? Or will it become another high- quality football league for the people that crave it daily?
If the latter happens for both these leagues, the CFL is in trouble, but I believe that the leadership of commissioner Randy Ambroise has been forward-thinking enough to counter it. They’ve made multiple rule-changes in his short tenure to open up the game offensively, bringing in more viewers with short attention spans.
I haven’t even mentioned yet that it seems like every meaningful player is a free agent. You don’t have to look anywhere past the quarterbacks. The Eskimos, Stampeders, Lions, Roughriders Redblacks, and Alouettes all have notable quarterbacks leaving for free agency. With Bo-Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly being two of many
quarterbacks, the power of the league is due to shift. Could you imagine the Riders defence with a quarterback like Mike Reilly? What if the Stamps couldn’t retain Mitchell and they had to settle with a younger quarterback like Antonio Pipkin? What would that offence look like?
The storylines the CFL will see could naturally bring more attention to the league as other ones are kickstarting.
The AAF and the XFL may be new and exciting but don’t look past the CFL. When Canada’s league takes the field again next year, it may also look like a new league.