Could the league survive with 7 teams?

With the attendance problems in Vancouver and Toronto, and the uncertainty of a Maritimes team, could the league work with just 7 teams? Fan bases are strong in the prairie cities, Hamilton and Ottawa. Now that Montreal is winning again attndance should improve. Stadiums are good too in 5 of the 7 cities. Would a one-division league, 18 games (3 against each team), 5 in playoffs work? Or would TSN turn their back on this setup? Curious.

Well, there was the highly romanticized era of the “Original Six” in the NHL, so anything is possible I suppose.

Why the doom and gloom?
Both the teams you mentioned in Vancouver and Toronto are dealing with Braleys late ownership issues.

He cut all investment and marketing with Toronto towards the end of his ownership. During that time the Argos started their swoon of non existence. Now MLSE has ownership, where what they lose on the Argos, is probably the same amount they payout to one of their executives each year.

Vancouver seems to be dealing with a lack of effort by Braley as well. I think he still loves the league and that is why he hung on to both teams, but he doesn’t have the energy or will to sell it to the fans.
Reducing the capacity at BC Place and taking away centre field seating and forcing people to the endzones with higher ticket prices, surprisingly hasn’t seemed to work.

This league has managed to survive far worse threats than they have now. I don’t think the talent level in this league has ever been better. And a season that could have bombed with every single starting QB missing games, could have tanked the season. Instead, the special teams game exploded with points, young or career back ups put up good numbers and a team that hadn’t won in 30 years won the grey cup.

If we start the season and Montreal and BC have new committed owners, more than likely fans and media will simply look for the next crisis or create one if there isn’t any.
That is what Canadian Football media/fans seem to do. Myself included.

If the CFL were to ever be reduced to 7 Canadian teams and with no prospect of expansion anywhere else in Canada then we would see another attempt at American expansion for sure. Successful leagues are ones that grow, not contract.

Long live the CFL!


Which is why I find it so disturbing that the CFL has not grown beyond the nine teams it had in 1954, which was of course before the CFL actually existed. Speaking of which, one could therefore argue that the "league" has actually contracted since 1954 since the three members of the ORFU - Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, Sarnia Imperials and Toronto Balmy Beachers - were also eligible to compete for the Grey Cup at the time.


Lose the top 2 English speaking media markets? TSN would either lower the amount they’re paying the league. Definitelywould not be extending right now if that happened.

Funnythe OP mentions concerns for Toronto and BC and thinks Montrealshould be fine even though theleague still owns them. They’ll be OK because they’re startingto win? Maybe the other concernscan start doing that consistentlyand they’ll bea better path soon too. Lions need an ownership change though.

I think the league would survive, but obviously not thrive. Revenues would go down and surely payroll would too.

I don't think a 5-team playoff would work though. If the league were only 7 teams, probaby the top 4 would make the playoffs.

That era was over a half century ago, and was the biggest reason why the NHL is behind the 3 other "major" league sports today. The CFL needs to expand for a whole host of reasons, contracting only buries it even further. We don't need that.

Would have 7 strong teams.

Seems incredible that two of our biggest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, can’t support the CFL unless big city sports fans won’t support “minor league” attractions which, unfortunately is how a lot of people think of the CFL in spite of the Cdn game being far superior to the NFL (no fun league)

If they are, maybe nothing we can do, so what else? Expand into the US?

I wasn’t following football too closely when they tried that experiment. What happened to it? US franchises fail from lack of support?

Things can be done. You have to conduct yourself as a "major league" operation (in every way, shape and form) and keep pounding that fact out there to the masses. You need star attraction for those big markets and not have players making just slightly more (or worse ) than the fans in the stands. Perception is everything in those larger markets. It may be a sad reality, but it doesn't make it any less true. The CFL needs to move on this ASAP

I agree that they have to conduct themselves as a major league operation, but they also have to realize that they cannot compete financially with the real major football league.

The league has to advertise itself to the masses for what it is at its best. The "Radically Canadian" marketing campaign did much more for the league's image than did overpaying for star players like Flutie and Ismail who made only a temporary splash.

Best with 9 however 8 would work. An expansion now would be a death blow to league.

You don’t have to compete on every level with the “real” major football league for talent, however you probably could use some funds for one top-end player with lots of marketing value. Certain players and situations do lend themselves for this use.

And I would say that none of those initiatives did much long term, but in at least Ismail’s case, attendance did skyrocket. It was the fact that his contract was based on a financial house of cards that we saw that deal fade away. On a side note, attendance fell by almost half the season after Ismail left compared to his first in the CFL. Flutie is a bit of an anomaly in that he wasn’t a big deal down south by the time he came to the Argos in the mid 90s. If he would have returned after playing for the Bills, crowds would have shot up again.

The Radically Canadian campaign was successful pretty much every else EXCEPT Toronto and Vancouver. In those two markets, their respective attendances were among the lowest each franchise ever had (until now sadly enough)

I could well be misinterpreting the impact, but I felt the Radically Canadian campaign helped those markets rebound from the lows of the late 90s.

In BC, of course, Bobby Ackles played a huge role in the Lions' turnaround and to some extent the same could be said of C&S in Toronto. In any case, neither of those turnarounds were predicated on impactful star signings, just on properly marketing and operating the product as it is.

We must expand for the survival of the league long term.
That's why it is crucial for Halifax to come in with the stadium vote next week.
I can't believe the lowly NLL which also had 9 teams last year, has now expanded to 13 teams.
If they can do it, why can't we?

Nobody builds arenas to bring a NLL team to town. They all use existing facilities, that's the biggest barrier to CFL expansion IMO.

It's also a matter of revenues needed to meet payroll. If the CFL could manage with a payroll of less than a million a year, they'd likely have expanded a fair bit over the years.

You have to look at the current BC Lions ownership for the state they are in. Perception is everything in the public eye. When Bobby Ackles took over he elevated the BC Lions to a professional level. Since he passed away nothing but nepotism/old boys club with keeping Wally Buono as the coach who should have been fired years ago and stale cheap ownership. IMHO Wally Buono was one one of the worst coaches in the league. It is his assistants that deserve all the credit.

The Radically Canadian campaign began in the late 90’s. That was a low point for both the Argos and Lions from an attendance point of view (until now sadly in at least the Argos case).

Ackles came around in the early 2000’s and yes things did improve drastically once that happened. However, the team did benefit from having Casey Printers in the lineup who many considered to be the next Warren Moon (as in surefire big hit in the NFL;it was just a matter of time). That was the height of the Lions popularity in recent memory in this market and the Lions offered a then unheard of salary offer of $1.2 million over 3 years to keep him in Vancouver. So he was the star or marquee player, its just that he was a homegrown one. Dave Dickenson unseated Printers as the starter for the team and boosted his and the team’s popularity. The town talk surrounding the 2 star QB’s was legitimate and lasted for a couple more seasons. Then things started to go downhill. The loss of Ackles, plus the club being oblivious to where it stood in the marketplace did not help matters.

The Argos under C&S brought in Ricky Williams and Heisman winner Eric Crouch to Toronto in 06. However the attendance boost was limited due to Williams missing a solid chunk of the year with an injury. However, Williams’ first game drew 27,000 for a pre-season game; a figure not even come close to being touched since. The team can’t even draw half that for a regular second game now. For Rocket Ismail’s first season, that was the highest attended season the Argos have had in almost 40 seasons. That figure again, has never been even approached since. That is very telling.

No doubt both franchises were run well during those seasons, but the star power each had helped them both in regards to attendance.