CFL Growing Internationally: The Little League That Can...

Virtually all CFL games over the past two seasons have been broadcast live on BTSports1 & 2 across Great Britain. They substitute their own British commercials live, normally seamlessly (ESPN take note). Not sure about the TV ratings but they must be good enough to broadcast every game, often on the main BTSports channel.

Here is an interesting column from a British football blog:

[b]CFL – The little league that can[/b]

The CFL is probably not the first thing UK based fans think of when they think of American football. It may not even be the second, as most people think of the NFL and then college football and then the long off season. It is time for that to change! The CFL is becoming more exciting, more accessible and just such plain good old fashioned fun that we owe it to ourselves to start taking more of an interest!

So does the CFL feel inferior? Judging by the amount of self-effacing jokes Canadians make about it, possibly. The question is does this matter? Not really. Let’s just take the CFL at face value, a small, but growing, vibrant, fun league that plays from June to November and is well worth a look. After all 10 per cent of Americans have started following the CFL ‘very closely’ or ‘fairly closely’ according to recent research.

This is a league on the up. If you are a follower of college football and miss some of the guys who don’t make it to the NFL – then you are likely to recognise quite a few players out on the CFL field. If you are looking for talent that might one day make it to the NFL then this is one place to look. If you want to see fast moving, entertaining football when the NFL and college football are still a month or two away, then the CFL is for you.

More: ... -that-can/

From B.C. to Winnipeg: Picking your CFL team to follow: ... -cfl-team/

Don't know about the TV ratings but I should imagine it's tiny if the games are live, they would be in the early hours of the morning UK time.

What a great site.

Yes, here is another recent story from that blog.

[b]Long before the international series… The ‘international series[/b]

More: ... nal-series

Here's another interesting article about how great CFL marketing is! (But please don't read the comments...)
[b]What the NFL Can Learn from Canada's CFL Targeting New Audiences[/b]

The Canadian Football League (CFL) is looking for new fans. Already Canada's number two sport behind perennial powerhouse hockey, strong TV ratings are no longer enough to keep league executives from chasing after new growth opportunities for Canada's version of American football.

The result is a campaign specifically designed for an unlikely audience in football: Millennial women.

More ... -audiences

Why not have an exhibition game in London?


Because it's expensive and no one would buy tickets.

Yeah, IMO the only way pre season games in the UK makes sense is if they partner with the Wolfpack and by a larger extent the RFL.

RFL season overlaps the pre season so extend their partnership with Transat and share travel costs. Don't play in the Wembley or Old Traffords of the world but use some of the stadiums in the smaller to mid sized towns. Many seat in the 10 to 20K range.

Rugby League is commonly looked as the smaller cousin to Rugby Union, like Canadian football is the smaller offshoot of American football. Perhaps have RFL teams play friendly or neutral site games here but not in Toronto and both leagues/sports work to grow their footprint on both sides of the pond.

yea, that's a good point................. :slight_smile:
and what would be the benefit to the CFL to travel to a foreign country and play a pre-season game?

Has anybody here gone out of their way to watch a preseason game?

To go to London there's just no way to market it. They already get a regular season NFL game. How would you market a CFL preseason game-Come and watch two teams play players who will not make the teams?

Wow! What an inspiring group we have on here. Its hard so why bother even trying :cry:

It doesn't have to be London or even in England for that matter. You can do a preseason game in Ireland. NCAA football played games there to crowds that were larger than half the league gets now for regular season games.

You would partner with a promoter over there (as both the NCAA & NFL did) to promote games over there.

The Canadian version of the game is much more similar to rugby than American football and promoted properly, would do great over there IMHO.

The CFL can't even manage to stage a preseason game in a US border city like Detroit or Rochester which would be way easier (and cheaper) to do than going overseas.

mark...maybe make a case that a mean nothing preseason game from a foreign country, played by many guys not going to make the team would be a draw anywhere.

Are you serious? the Canadian game nowhere similar to Rugby. If you showed a Brit or European a CFL game they would be hard pressed to see the difference - they dress the same with helmets, pads etc, the field dimensions are bigger but marked the same, the forward pass, the line of scrimmage. And the majority of our players are Americans.
Our game no way resembles Rugby.

Yes the CFL can not manage to stage a preseason game in a US border city. We can't even stage a pre-season game
IN CANADA - the last game was in Quebec City when the Als played Ottawa.
The only people that bothered to show up were fans from Ottawa and Montreal that bused and drove in. And Quebec is supposed to be a hotbed of CIS football.

Why would we want a pre-season game in England or anywhere else when we can't sell the game in Canada?

There's already been a history of preseason, mean nothing games, drawing decent crowds. In the early 90's, the league played preseason games in American cities without teams and drew half decent crowds. That was back in the days before the internet and social media and expensive tickets to the "major" spots leagues.

In Ireland, the NCAA staged a game which, although not a preseason game featured guys from unknown school teams in which 90% of the roster will be selling insurance a few months after the season ends. Ditto with Tokyo Japan

Its about the spectacle of watching a "football" game that draws people out. Its a one-off event rather than a continuous string of games. Is the game going to be a huge money maker? No it probably wont. But the long run implications through things such as broadcast distribution deals might move the dial and develop at least some kind of following in other markets which should move the needle at least a little in terms of increasing revenues.

Now I agree that London may be a bit of a problem as they hosted regular season games there and have developed a following there, but when you have the Argos hosting a pre-season game at Varsity stadium where kids get in free and it draws 6,000 fans, its not like we're setting the house on fire here locally either.

A little out of the box thinking would not hurt the league.

I think it's safe to say anyone who knows a bit of history that Both Canadian and American football traces their roots from Rugby - it's far from a stretch.

Overseas there's two different Rugby codes, so it's not too hard pressed to educate a potential audience that there are in a sense two 'different codes' in gridiron football as well. Many here are can't tell the difference between League and Union, yet there's a pro team here playing the 'lesser code' and drew well over 6K on their first game.

The Wolfpack will likely always be a niche product but if there is a market for Rugby League here, it's not impossible to fathom an audience for the Canadian game somewhere else.

Granted, I don't think anyone here will make a case for a full time team over there...but if they do, at least they'll play in the eastern division :lol:

I said its more similar to rugby than the American version but ya, its not like anyone will mistake it for rugby any time soon.

As for them not being able to stage successful preseason games in Canada- That's EXACTLY the reason why you would try something elsewhere. In the States, you have the very real possibility that an increase in interest may bring in a significant increase in broadcast deal in the US. The league is already hovering in that zone already, and a little push in interest could easily bring in significant dollars to the league.

Remember an increase of a few million dollars to TV revenues while huge to the league is what ESPN execs spend on aftershave.

...why not Reykjavik?

The Reykjavik Rough-Riders

You can laugh all you want.
That's why you have game sponsors at the site in question.
If not London, how about Germany or my preference Hawaii.
Even though we are basically a mom and pop type league, there is no reason not to try to grow the game internationally.
It's time for the next commissioner and the BOG to start thinking and implementing out of the box.

Yes, exporting anything outside our country (except living here) continues to be a serious problem...

As im a brit in uk i thought i'd throw my thoughts in.
Been following cfl a few years. It is on bt subscribe tv and as previously said the games tend to be too late live. I watch highlights from the website and whole games utube.
A Cfl game might get 20k in uk but more likely 10k. The best way to get people there or interested is target the nfl fans in uk.
Another way to increase interest is the free to air channels as nfl did in the 80's here but they would pay less. Sport associations never seem too fussed on that option.
Looking forward to the season and i visit the cfl and cfl forum site every day.
Sadly I have tried to order a number of tops and hats over last few years but cfl doesnt deliver here.