CFL Investment in Grassroots

We’d all love to see more $$$, but 3 million isn’t too bad.

TORONTO (April 24, 2023) – In 2022, the Canadian Football League (CFL) and its nine member clubs invested over $3.1M towards the growth of the game at the amateur level. These contributions directly supported participation, coaching and infrastructure, but stakeholders across the Canadian football community – from grassroots development at the provincial and national levels and collegiate institutions, to junior and professional football – agreed that there remains a significant challenge surrounding officiating capacity.

“As a league, we’re proud of the CFL’s tremendous support of amateur football last year through direct donations, clinics, events, appearances, programs, volunteerism and much more, but there is no growth in any sport without officials,” said CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

“While expanding community outreach and improving grassroots development introduces more youth into the game, the role of qualified officiating in bringing these athletes to the next level cannot be overstated.”

To lead the charge, Darren Hackwood, Associate Vice-President, Officiating at the CFL will co-chair an Officiating Task Force with Jim Mullin, President of Football Canada.

“A joint effort focusing on key challenges is what our officiating community demands to spark growth,” said Mullin. “The co-leadership of the CFL on this project is essential for our ‘third team’ to have a deep bench across the country.”

The group will gather leaders from the world of officiating to develop strategies to heighten recruitment and retention, and to underscore the importance of the role in hopes of creating a more respectful environment for officials.

“Across the country, football leaders, administrators, parents and more have shared stories of competitions being impacted or even cancelled due to a lack of officials. This should not happen,” noted Hackwood. “The football community needs to come together to train and support more officials, and to ensure promising recruitment programs are able to grow, as we continue strengthening the game in Canada.”

The Officiating Task Force will further the league’s continued work to support the growth of amateur football from coast to coast to coast. In 2022, those efforts included, but were not limited to:

The CFL launched a trio of programs to strengthen the state of amateur football: the Women in Football Program presented by KPMG, the Diversity in Football Program presented by Securian Canada and the Officiating Academy. The Quarterback Internship program furthered its mandate of providing U SPORTS pivots with the opportunity to learn from professional coaches and athletes. The league continued its work with Physical and Health Education Canada to develop the game at the grassroots level by providing educators with age-appropriate resources to teach football knowledge, skills and behaviours. The CFL developed a new partnership with OK Tire, which included the league’s Official Auto and Commercial Vehicle Service and Tire Retail Partner making donations to Canadian football’s ten provincial sport organizations for each touchdown scored by the home team during the Grey Cup Playoffs. The 7th Official Evaluation Program provides meaningful development opportunities for officials, while raising the level of officiating at the U SPORTS and Canadian Junior Football League levels.

​The Alouettes organized various celebrations to honour amateur teams and officials at home games. Players visited local minor football teams to offer advice and help guide skill development for coaches and youth. The team donated tickets and game-used items for auctions to help Quebec’s football community develop the sport across the province.

​The REDBLACKS coordinated over 150 hours of player engagement with amateur football groups and more than 380 hours of youth program appearances across the National Capital Region. Proceeds from 50/50 campaigns were donated to the National Capital Amateur Football Association. One thousand tickets were provided to priority youth, new immigrant youth, women’s football programming and indigenous communities. The annual REDBLACKS Coaching Clinic trained more than 160 amateur football coaches. The team helped establish the first-ever Ottawa girls high school tackle football team and is supporting the development of additional teams in the region.

​The Argonauts’ donations to amateur football supported minor football, high school programs, flag football, the Huddle Up Anti-Bullying program and MLSE Launch Pad. The team’s focus was to support and strengthen the bond between community-building and sport development.

​The Tiger-Cats’ focused on making Tim Hortons Field a hub for amateur football in the region. The team worked closely with Football Ontario to run activations and host events, while also partnering with community football in Burlington, Guelph, Brantford and Niagara. Proceeds from 50/50 campaigns were donated to amateur football organizations. Hamilton partnered with Stelco to deliver bursaries to youth football players planning to pursue post-secondary education. The team supported programming for the development of local coaches and officials, and it celebrated outstanding contributions to the game through its Minor Football Coach of the Week program. Players attended practices and games of local minor and high school teams to help support and inspire the next generation. The first annual Women’s FootbALL Conference was hosted by the team.

​The Blue Bombers worked closely with youth and high school football leagues to grow participation, to assist in coaching development, and to help improve funding to ensure kids have safe and proper equipment. The team ran various programs throughout the off-season to introduce boys and girls to the game, with over 1,500 youth participating in #TryFootball programs. The Blue Bombers supported the Winnipeg Rifles, and junior and flag football leagues by providing access to the stadium for camps and championship games, in addition to supplying 150 flag football kits to schools across the province.

​The Roughriders focused on participation and creating opportunities for youth to play the game they love. Their donations to KidSport Saskatchewan covered facility costs for youth throughout the province, and the Pass Punt Kick program allowed the team to provide flag football kits to schools, as well as jerseys and tickets to contest winners. Proceeds from 50/50 campaigns were donated to the University of Regina football team, the University of Saskatchewan football team, and minor football programs. The team conducted camps in Northern Saskatchewan, Women and Girls’ Camps, Indigenous Camps and New Canadian Camps.

The Stampeders prioritized support for youth development programming and amateur football initiatives. Proceeds from 50/50 campaigns were donated to Canadian junior, minor and Dinos football programs in the city. Funds were also made available to support ongoing development programming among amateur and grassroots football players and associations. The team hosted Learn to Play camps and Alumni Youth Camps, and provided resources and funding for video services for over 150 high school and youth football games, while covering costs for all high school Hudl accounts. The team supported the Calgary Rage women’s football team and the Pink Power Game.

​The Elks focused on youth development opportunities and increasing the visibility and profile of amateur football. The Edmonton Elks Jr. High School boys and girls flag football program included over 60 registered schools. Team staff provided and hosted coverage for the metro high school and provincial championships. The team supported the Capital District Minor Football Association Drill Day, the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta Camp and the Ultimate Sports Camp Day. The Elks provided funding for the Free Play for Kids Football League, the Elks Junior High Flag League and the Elks Flag Football League.

​The Lions prioritized connecting the team with all aspects of amateur football throughout the province. The team assisted in the governance of various associations by facilitating AGMs, attending management meetings, maintaining clear lines of support and communication, and more. One game night highlighted a local amateur football organization, its coaches and its administrators, while seven others recognized youth football participants. Proceeds from 50/50 campaigns – a single-season team record in donations – were used to support amateur football initiatives. Over 120 high school, junior and club coaches were invited to a joint clinic. Coaches, youth and winning teams were honoured to raise the profile of amateur football.


this is awesome. thanks for sharing. great to see the league and the teams investing in grassroots football programs.


this is REALLY needed: