CFL has come a Long way since 1987

This is an article from 1987 Sports illustrated. I will only include part of the article as it is too long to post. I will include the link.

One tidbit, the average salary back then was 60k with a 11 million a year contract with Carling which just expired. TV audiences were only averaging 130K. We have come a long way baby!!! You will have to click the link to read the whole article.

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FACE IT. All that strike business made you nostalgic for the good old Canadian Football League. Remember the happy days of the last strike, when three downs, 12 players and the Saskatchewan Something or Others filled up your Trinitron? The CFL was a pleasant pigskin pacifier until the prodigal players came home. Now, you say, whatever happened to the good old CFL? Glad you asked....

Well, for starters, the good old CFL is almost sure to last the whole season. After that, it's a possible third-and-punt situation. Put it this way: In polls in Canada, the CFL finishes slightly ahead of acid rain these days. The Montreal Alouettes folded last June. The Calgary Stampeders pretty much folded and then reopened. The Ottawa Rough Riders aren't far from folding. The Saskatchewan Roughriders ought to fold until they can think up their own name.

Ottawa really ought to. It can't give tickets away. In a magnanimous gesture last month the Ottawa players bought 7,000 from the club—paid for them with their own money—in the hope of selling them to the faithful citizenry, who would get not only that week's game at the regular price but also another game absolutely free. By kickoff the players had sold 1,500 tickets. They ate the rest. Then they went out and lost their eighth straight game. Burp.

The former Ottawa owner, Allan Waters, must have laughed. He was about ready to pull the sheet over the Rough Riders' heads this year when he found some Ottawans willing to buy the club—for $1 (Canadian). Some people think Waters snookered 'em. Ottawa needed to average 27,000 fans this year to break even. So far the Rough Riders have averaged 18,800. Harold Ballard, owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, lost $3 million last season—and he won the Grey Cup. As for the league as a hole, er, whole, fans have come out unanimously in their undying indifference toward it. Last year the CFL drew an average of 130,000 fewer TV viewers per week than in 1985. The Stampeders were so broke in 1985 they announced they didn't have enough money to buy stamps. Brother, can you spare a chin strap?

Some of the players—Tex Schramm will grow hair when he hears this—are taking 10% pay cuts this season. The average salary of a player in the CFL is only $60,332. Compared with most professional athletes, that's not much. The other day somebody asked one of the players if the CFL had a drug problem. "How can there be a drug problem in this league?" said the player. "We can't make enough money to buy drugs."

In Regina, Saskatchewan, home of the publicly owned Roughriders (one word as opposed to Ottawa's two) the team had to hold a telethon to pay last season's debt of $750,000—so it could get on with this year's debt. This year the Roughriders held a lottery, and it was more successful than the telethon, possibly because first prize was a house. Regina has fewer than 170,000 people and the tickets were $100 a piece, but the team sold 13,000.

thanks for posting this, fantastic read. The date was particularly relevant to me, i was 17, my father had been a lions season ticket holder for 10 years since 77, this was the last year he would buy them, thoroughly disgusted with the state of the CFL. I had grown up with the lions, from the mid 70's and thought it was the greatest. but even me at 17 could see the decay, the following year, Murry Pezim bought the lions and changed them to hybrid LA raiders jersey and that was the end for me. I started watching the NFL after that, followed warren moon with the oilers, games were always televised, there was a series of video games based on the NFL, all media and advertising took me and my friends at that age away, and NHL hockey was beginning to brand its self stronger in those days as well further weakening the CFL's young fan base, i briefly payed attention again in 93 with the US expansion, but when that failed i turned my attention away. it would be 8 years later in 2000 i was given some tickets to Lui Passagulas last game, and i went with some friends, and this began my return to the CFL, but it was in 2008 with full TV coverage from TSN did i start see other people at my work, and acquaintances start to take notice, finally 20 years after this article was written, the CFL began to enter the modern area, i still think we have further to go, but the future is bright.

The mid 90's were our low point. I wish someone would write a book about the last 20 years of CFL. They have been amazing - in a good way.

Crazy article...

well said. I think a lot of people felt the same from those I have talked to.

The average TV audience went DOWN by 130,000 from 1985 not that the TOTAL TV audience averaged 130,000 - big difference. Still going down by that amount was pretty bad.

Just an update, I was 17 in 1987 when the article was written, and I fell away from the cfl for a good 12 years, and didn't really get back in to till about 2005. Now im a die hard, I watch most lions game, and usually catch the other teams games if im home and they are on. I try to get to one or two games a year, and for those of us with kids, I have two boys 7 and 10, i'm raising them CFL fans they way my dad did, I only fell away because of the poor management of the league and I don't see that happening again. So I have my boys in jersey's and shirts and encourage them to watch the games with me, so those of us with kids, get them to be fans, old navy was carrying shirts for 15 bucks. Btw my dad is 76 now and still a huge CFL fan, me and my boys watch grey cup with him every year, its a family tradition.

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according to this... the average CFL salary was 110 thousand dollars... The league has not come along ways if you are a player... It has gotten worse....much much worse.... The players need to nail the owners to the wall in the negotiations coming up soon. An average salary of 110 thousand sounds fair... If they were paying 110 and having to do telethons and unable to buy stamps then they can dam well pay 110k now!.. FYI... I think the average is like 77k right now.. or about 40 thousand 1987 dollars. The players have seen one third of their meager income disappear in the last 30 years

according to this... the average salary is still 60K....lmao... I just took the salary cap and divided it by the roster numbers and injured list... they do it similarly... but come to a much lower number
So reapeat... CFL players have had a 45% decrease in pay since 1987.... They better strike ... this is complete crap.... meanwhile the coaches are making out like bandits...Dan Hawkins made 1.2 million to coach 5 games!!!! The players have to stand up for themselves. Dirtbag Wally cuts players over 10 K, but earns over half a million in wages.... Cap the GM salary at 300K... cap the head coaches at 150 and position coaches at 100... and lets get some freakin Canadians involved in the CFL... I can think of 2 Canadian coaches and a couple of position coaches.

It is that sort of antagonistic attitude that has lead to the demise of a lot of jobs in Canada. What the players and owners need to do is come to a reasonable and mutually respectful CBA.

How can the players demand more money than there actually is?
When things are bad, the owners lose their money and the players get paid regardless.
Players need to remember, without the owner's financial sacrifices, this league would have been long gone.

I'm all for an increase in the cap, but a fiscally responsible one only.


even if you take the cap and divide by 60 players it is higher than 60k...what sort of fun math are you doing?

There is nothing wrong with paying successful management well...they are the ones putting together the teams. That said, I think some sort of management cap is a good idea, but where do you draw the line? Some teams have grown in revenue largely because of the salaries they pay to you limit them to? Way too easy to hide management salary otherwise...300K a year to be a GM, and 200K a year for marketing ain't too hard.

As far as hiring Canadians, be the best candidate and you will get offers. Plain hard fact is that Canadians are in catchup mode for football compared to the US...just like the US is with hockey.

This article really articulates why the CFL has always had such a hard time succeeding. No one in the U.S. takes time, or gives back, to anything here. We have every single American chain or company, and eat/use it up in droves. Caterpillar, Heinz (and a third one that escapes me), all have gone home. McDonalds countinues to give away away their coffee. The official beer of the RedBlacks is Anheuser-Busch. The XL pipeline is under attack for shipping bulk crude. No problem, we'll set up a refinery in between Swift Current and Moose Jaw and send it down that way (but they're not stupid, that's where the actual jobs are).

The first few paragraphs illustrate how much even we've dumped on it. Terrible. Poor ol' Blackberry. They made some mistakes, but I guess there's no room for error.