The Canadian Football League is taking on a modern new look featuring new stadiums, a new TV deal and a new expansion franchise as it builds a bright future, says the league’s Commissioner.
“I’m excited about today’s CFL,? Mark Cohon told reporters today at the annual State of the League media conference.
“And I’m even more excited about the CFL we’re building for the future, for the next generation of fans.?
Cohon pointed to a series of important forward looking developments:
•The Saskatchewan Roughriders plan to move into a modern new stadium here in 2017.
•The Hamilton Tiger-Cats move into modern new Tim Hortons Field next year.
•The REDBLACKS begin play in 2014, expanding the league to nine teams.
•Ottawa will also be home next year to a completely refurbished stadium at Lansdowne Park, the jewel in a modern new urban renewal project.
•The Blue Bombers just completed their first season at modern new Investors’ Group Field, on the heels of the compete rebuild of BC Place in Vancouver a few years ago.
•A new five-year multi-platform broadcast deal with TSN and RDS, reached last Spring, kicks in next year.
•Reebok will celebrate a new contract extension with the CFL by introducing stunning new third uniforms in 2014.
“We remain authentic to our core: we belong to our fans, value our traditions, and understand who we are. But the CFL is becoming something more,? Cohon said.
“Strong and united leadership from our board, prudent agreements with our players, sensible salary management, smart partnerships and, most of all, support from our fans, have all provided this league with a solid base. And on it, we’re building something new and even more exciting.?
Cohon said the 2013 season – which culminates this Sunday at 6 pm. with the playing of the 101st Grey Cup game -- has been an important step forward for the business of the league:
•Television ratings continue to grow: CFL ratings on TSN were up 4.3 per cent from a year ago, and ratings on TSN and RDS combined were up 3.6 per cent.
•An average of 703,000 Canadians watched each CFL regular season game on TSN, and 758,000 watched on TSN and RDS combined – the second highest ratings in the history of the CFL.
•An average audience of 1.4 million watched the Eastern Semi-Final, with a peak audience of almost 2.3 million, while an average audience of 1.6 million watched the Western Semi-Final, with a peak audience of 2.4 million.
•About 7.3 million Canadians watched some part of the Divisional Finals on TSN, with the Eastern Final attracting an average audience of 1.7 million (up 21 per cent from last year) and a peak audience of 3.1 million, making it the most watched ever on English-language television, while an average audience of 1.9 million watched the Western Final on TSN (up two per cent from last year), with a peak audience of 2.7 million.
•The CFL is the number one summer sports property on Canadian television, and overall, it garners higher ratings that any other sports property except hockey.
•The CFL enjoyed its most successful year for corporate partnerships ever, with the exception of the year of the 100th Grey Cup, signing new agreements with LOWES, Canadian Pacific, Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Dr. Oetker and Great Western Brewing.
•The latest available numbers, from September, show the league’s merchandising business is up 7 per cent, with apparel up 6 per cent and headwear up 14 per cent, with growth for all teams.
•Our digital footprint continues to grow: we saw increases in mobile app views (51 per cent), @CFL Twitter following (75 per cent), Facebook likes (26 per cent), unique visitors to CFL.ca (16 per cent) , and page views (14 per cent).
•Moncton hosted another successful CFL game there, NAPA Touchdown Atlantic, and the league advised the City of Halifax on stadium considerations, as the CFL continued to explore the possibility of a tenth team in Atlantic Canada.
Cohon, who acknowledged a year ago that the league had work to do in southern Ontario, said television ratings indicate more and more people in the region are following the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Southern Ontario ratings for Argo regular season games were up 27 per cent compared to last season and 52 per cent compared to 2011, while the Tiger-Cats southern Ontario ratings were up 19 per cent compared to last season, and 32 per cent compared to 2011.
Related LinksDivision Finals Score Record Numbers
Yesterday?s Divisional Finals on TSN delivered big audiences. Overall, 7.3 million Canadians watched some part of the 2013 CFL Divisional Finals on TSN. CFL on TSN a ratings winner
101st Grey Cup Centre
This indicates that the Argos’ victory in the 100th Grey Cup game following a wildly successful festival in Toronto did indeed have some spillover effect in 2013, as did strong play by both the Argos and the Ticats, Cohon said.
The Argos’ new five-year lease with the Rogers Centre provides them with a stable base and time to find a new home stadium, and the Tiger-Cats move to new Tim Hortons Field next year, gives both teams an opportunity to launch exciting new eras, he added.
“While there is much more to do, we are making important strides in Canada’s most powerful and most populous market, “ Cohon said.
Average attendance for a regular season CFL game this year was 28,963, an increase of 1.5 per cent over last year, if you do not include home games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who played at the University of Guelph while their new stadium, Tim Hortons Field, is being built in Hamilton.
Guelph’s Alumni Stadium had a capacity of 13,000, less than half the size of the team’s previous home at Ivor Wynne Stadium. If you include attendance numbers from Guelph, the per game average attendance was 27.017, down 4 per cent from last year.
Cohon said player health and safety, and particularly concussion awareness, prevention and treatment, is paramount for the league, which will seek a new collective bargaining agreement with its players in 2014.
An exciting 2013 season on the field featured:
•The emergence of promising young quarterbacks including Zach Collaros, Bo Levi Mitchell and Thomas DeMarco, the rushing duel between Jon Cornish and Kory Sheets and several standout defensive performances from players such as Chip Cox and Charleston Hughes.
•Records set for most rush yards by a Canadian (Jon Cornish), most yards from scrimmage by a Canadian (Jon Cornish), most consecutive field goals made and highest field goal percentage (Rene Paredes), and highest pass completion percentage and highest pass efficiency (Ricky Ray).
•The deciding points scored in the final three minutes in almost half of all regular season games, and comeback wins featured in more than half of all regular season games.