Friday, February 8, 2008
It’s been quite a week for all of us who love the Canadian Football League, and I wanted to make sure you heard directly from me.
I want to start by saying something you might not hear often enough, and that’s “thank you.?
Thank you for your support, your passion, your ongoing love affair with one of the greatest games in the world, football played the Canadian way, on a field that’s wide and long, with three downs, the rouge, and the joyous possibility that a trip to the Grey Cup will be decided by two Canadians booting the ball in and out of the end zone, again and again, in the snow.
You buy the tickets, wear the swag, and wave our flag. You are the CFL, and we thank you.
Our league is in the best shape it has been in years, and while our teams have worked hard to make that happen, the credit really belongs to you. We’re coming off a year in which our attendance was the highest it has been since 1983, sponsorships were up, television ratings remained strong, and the Grey Cup, in Toronto, was one of the most successful in history.
It’s easy to lose sight of that, when you read some of the commentary predicting our demise – a prediction that’s been wrong countless times before, and that’s wrong again this time.
Look, everyone in the CFL is mindful of the challenges posed by even the possibility of an NFL team moving to Toronto. We have to be clear eyed and sober minded about the potential challenges to our teams in southern Ontario. That’s one reason why I and the rest of the league’s leadership are working to achieve a long-term agreement with the NFL that’s positive for our league. And you should know: we would never pursue an agreement that wasn’t positive for our league and positive, most of all, for our fans.
At the same time, we can’t allow ourselves to get carried away by speculation or hype. Here are the facts that we do know: the Bills will play eight games in Toronto over the next five years, three of them pre-season games. This year, there will be one pre-season NFL game in Toronto. That’s happened before and had little impact on our teams. This year, there will be one regular season NFL game in Toronto. And it will be played several days after the Grey Cup in Montreal.
The Argos believe they have found a way to turn this into an opportunity to add value to their season ticket package, and possibly expose some new ticket holders to our great game. What we all agree on is we need to work towards a comprehensive agreement with the NFL that preserves and strengthens Canadian football and the CFL. You should know that this will take time. This is a complicated issue and, as one of the guardians of our game, I’m taking a very careful, methodical approach. You should also know that we’ll do everything we can to strengthen our league, in those discussions and beyond them.
Many of you have contacted me to ask what you can do. The answer is simple: Support our teams. Renew your season tickets, or buy season tickets for the first time. If your son or daughter is invited to a birthday party, take a CFL t-shirt or jersey as a gift. Pick up a CFL ball, and play some catch with your own kids. Show your colours.
If you’re like me, and have loved this league for a long time, then you understand something others might not. This league is pretty tough. We’ve faced challenges before, and we’ve always come through, thanks to you. Our game means too much to us, and too much to our fellow Canadians, for us to be discouraged by hype or headlines. We’re not going away. We’re getting stronger. And we’re looking forward to a great season.
Free agency starts in a week, with the draft not too far behind. Before we know it, the snow will be gone and CFL training camps will be open. I can’t wait, either. Thanks again.