Bring Back the Marquee Player Rule

With the Toronto Wolfpack about to sign Sonny Bill Williams (don’t worry if you don’t know him, he’ll be a household name in Toronto - maybe Canada - by the end of next year), I think the CFL needs to bring back the marquee player rule in some form.

Big name American football players will help sell the game - especially in the three big cities (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal). I became a CFL fan just around the time the Argos signed the Rocket. Imagine that “buzz” in the social media era.

The same old same old/proud to be Canadian/tradition, etc. doesn’t do it in the Big Three. Attendance speaks for itself. If the CFL doesn’t wake up to this reality, the Argos will find themselves below the Wolfpack in the Toronto sports pecking order.

Just increase the salary cap by a million or two. Perception of big-league needed.
Advertizing will follow as quality improves. Follow the pattern of NHL laid out 30 years ago. Better quality equals more dollars. Cheers

Make it a large cap for up to two marquee players. In that way a team can have more flexibility and sign a rising, not quite yet, star for whatever reason not working out in the NFL plus perhaps an experienced pro football solid veteran.

Also the CFL should not honour necessarily all NFL suspensions including for marijuana use as opposed to trafficking, for the former now is legal in all of Canada and is legal in most US states at least for medical use.

  1. How has the “quality” of the NHL improved in the last thirty years? By what measure?

  2. Since when does upping the salary cap/salaries automatically result in more “quality”? Granted, it will automatically result in teams spending to the higher limit with a view to staying “competitive”, but how does this equate to “quality”?

  3. Does more spending by teams automatically result in this “perception of big league” thing that you say is needed?


The 90s were a blast. Teams folding. The league’s very survival in doubt. Expansion into random U.S. markets just for the sake of a one-time cash injection. Going to the NFL in desperation for a cash bail-out. One owner not even bothering to pay the league’s marquee QB for a season. Completely uneven playing field as some teams spent what they wanted to buy a championship.

Ah, the good old days.

Oh I hear you, but let’s note this is a suggestion to bring back one rule not to bring back the 1990s or any other decade for that matter.

I am the opposite less is more .

Bring this league to an even more sustainable level and grow our own Canucks on a more economic scale that defies the major league trend .

Already had the Skalbania idea flop as well as others thru the years and it doesn’t get anyone in the door to come in and stay .

However if we ritualize the experience and bring a tribal atmosphere to the game it seems to bring a fan who returns for that fix of belonging to something .

If I was going to move the league move it to smaller cities and grow the league with expansion . The numbers indicate with attendance today they are not far off from making that work .

Let the bigger city fans want back in by the virtue and attraction to something more authentic and rooted in a much larger home grown base than what this league attracts today .

I agree.


I’m not suggesting we relive the 90s. And, I’m not even talking about competitiveness. I’m talking about marketing. There are some deep pockets in the League now. Let them spend on one or two marquee players (salary excluded or partially excluded from the salary cap) if they want to. You can’t tell me the Toronto sports media would ignore the Argos if MLSE went out and lured an NFL starting QB or a first round NFL draft pick. The anticipation of the home opener at BMO Field would be incredible. THAT’s what I’m talking about.
P.S. There’s a reason MLS and Super League rugby have this rule.

That makes more sense. Let’s just re-live the over-spending and unsustainable financial models, but not re-live any of the consequences.

You could also look to the early 1980s-era Alouettes for inspiration. They did exactly what you are recommending. With a vengeance.

The Argos spent a fortune on Doug Flutie. It brought them two Grey Cups, but barely a blip in attendance.

Of course, it wasn’t as bad as it is now, but it was not much better than the year before, if I recall correctly.

Toronto also brought in Ricky Williams and drew more for a preseason game than they would for playoffs today, so there’s that.

To go back even further, see: Ismail, Raghib.

I don’t see how this would work.

Last time, who did the CFL take from the NFL, Ismail and Flutie (At the time there weren’t really any takers for Flutie in NFL).

Everywhere else, it just seemed they paid the Quarterbacks more and took them off the salary cap.

That works I guess, to use the 400k -750k on other players, but in the end you are just paying the same players more.

The NFL is the only league to draw from. The only owners with money to pay huge amounts are in Toronto, and are they going to be able to get a top NFL player to walk away to go to the CFL? Is a mid level player going to walk away from the NFL? I don’t think so.

Other sports, there are numerous leagues around the world to draw from. It might work in Rugby, but that is because Toronto has a team in Englands super league. People that don’t follow Rugby, are still going to say who?

Soccer it works, because MLS will pay through the nose for older players. Older players don’t really work in Football.

Who right now in the NFL could the CFL get that A) Good enough to draw fans B) Young enough not to be on their last leg C) Not a drug cheat or criminal

Montreal in the 70’s and early 80’s was a bad example as Skalbania went out and spent money on a handful of players (not just one or two) in order to bring them up here. The Als needed to draw nearly 50,000 fans a game just to break even. That was never going to work.

In todays CFL you can bring in one to two marquee players and you could still run a viable operation. That wasn’t the case back then.

And if the league expanded into smaller markets, it would instantly die in the larger ones. Fans in Toronto are not going to spend money to buy tickets for an Argos-Thunder Bay match up.

Thunder Bay ; I think your going a little too small with what kind of cities you could move forward within Canada that could sustain a franchise at the current level .

Besides Toronto wasn’t filling up for the Baltimore’s , Montreal’s , Vancouver’s or the San Antonio’s either .

Becoming a stronger version in a CFL sized league without the NFL comparison would be step one to making the CFL more relevant . Staying the same and hoping people change their views on your product does not appear to be an option .

In terms of getting players from the NFL that have that kind of star pull these days are long gone .

The average NFL QB makes 3.6 million . The cap is small because there really isn’t the revenue in the CFL . The entire cap is less than one player in many cases .

The days of the big signing of a Vince Feragamo are done the gap is just too big with wages now . Plus the off the field revenue they give up and NFL benefits .

Plus I just don’t see getting a guy like Ricky Williams really made a dent in the Toronto market . CFL guys say you see CFL is good just ask Ricky . Then the NFL guys say Ricky is no good . You can’t win so why play the game that way . Flutie showed he was good south of the border and Toronto couldn’t care less they still feel the CFL is a minor league .

Only a few teams could afford to pay huge bucks for a marquee player. So maybe that would help those teams. But what happens to the teams that can’t afford it? They are now at a disadvantage. Their fans see this and may lose interest.

How does this help the league?

The league will NEVER be relevant in the larger markets by expanding to smaller Canadian ones. It just isn’t going to happen. In fact the league will get even less popular in the big markets than they already are.

Flutie went to Toronto while he was still playing up here. He hadn’t made it down south yet. When it was rumoured he was coming back in the early 2000’s, the media in Toronto was a buzz. If he did come back, the Argos ticket sales would have spiked as they did for Ricky Williams a few seasons later.

You wouldn’t have to outbid for a top NFL player anymore, I agree those days are long gone. But you COULD nab someone who is a tweener in the NFL, but would be a perfect fit in the CFL. Especially someone who was a big name in college. That in itself would create a buzz that the league desperatly needs.

MLS has this same issue. Some teams go after big names, others do not. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee wins, and its all the sweeter when your team of local heroes beat the big spending clubs. But you still get the benefit of that player coming to your town and drawing a big crowd and the accompanying hype. Win-win for all.

TFC lost I think close to 19 million dollars this year .
White Caps and Impact all lost money . They have huge backers in that league that are waiting for their payday .

MLS is a completely different animal moving forward to a huge payday which many are betting the farm on when the World Cup comes to America .

They are all in with many wealthy owners that can afford the losses .

CFL survives with a media partner who is in love with it’s competitor and are hoping to pay the bills and not lose money .

There is no big valuation day coming anytime soon with the CFL from Forbes .