Football's Popularity in Canada in Decline?

A question for general discussion. Being a geezer, perhaps my memory of how things were, are not the way things really were. So take this with a grain of salt. It seems to me when I was young, growing up in Ottawa, CFL football was immensely popular. All of the adults in my life watched it regularly and Grey Cup was like a national holiday in our neighbourhood and across the city. Perhaps because we did not have an NHL hockey team (back in the ancient 6 team NHL).

In Old Ottawa East, where I grew up, every New Year's Day, the neighbourhood held a "Frost Bowl" where Upper and Lower Ottawa East competed for a prize. It was a regular event but slowly faded out by the end of the 1960s. High school football was huge when I was in that cohort; again, it seems to me that it was bigger than hockey.

Fast forward to the present. Maybe it is where I live, but I am hard pressed these days, to find fellow football fans. It seems to me that football's popularity in Canada has waned considerably since my childhood and my high school days, being superseded by hockey and increasingly, soccer.

So my question is, what is everyone else's take on this? Is this just a case of another geezer with a selective memory? And if football really is on the wane, why? Why was it so popular years ago and why has it fallen out of favour, nationally?

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I think the sport's popularity has declined in some ways.

There are regions in the country where football programs in high schools are on the decline. But there are also other regions where football programs--especially for girls--are on the rise.

When I moved to Ottawa (from Peterborough) a couple years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see kids playing ball in the parks, and wearing Redblacks gear. Someone in my neighbourhood flies a Blue Bombers flag in their backyard. I was out walking my dog one evening and chatting with a guy who told me he was in a hurry because "the game" was at halftime; i.e., he assumed that others would know that he meant the Redblacks game, something that would be very unlikely in the GTA.

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It may be more that sports in general are declining in popularity. Combine cord cutting with attendance decline in many sports (all three Canadian MLS teams: TFC -6%, Impact -13%, Caps -11% had declining attendance last year and of the league in total 18/24 had lower attendance) and the impression is set.

I worry more about football ennui resulting from too much football.

That's a personal choice. If a person got bored from football why would they watch more football?

It is because of all the competing entertainment options out there. Virtually everything that has ever been filmed is now streaming on your TV or hand held device. So now people prioritize their options. Watching a CFL game might be interesting to them but binge watching some series on Netflix has an even higher appeal. Likewise the younger crowd would rather go on social media or play on the XBOX with their friends.

It is the way the world is right now and unfortunately many longstanding traditions are slowly being abandoned.

as far as CFL goes, I think it is a combination of millennials preferring to have their noses and minds occupied by social media and their phones, as well as the number of first and second gen Canadians who just have not cared about Canadian traditions and culture.

For any newer Canadians who are interested in sports, they are inundation by the media re NFL and other USA sports and leagues. Also possibly bringing with them a preference for TRUE football.

Uh, that's the point.

CFL may simply be a symptom of the lack of interest to "buy canadian".
Other than Molson's and Roots, how many successful marketing campaigns or ones to save canadian companies have actually worked in the last 20-30 years?

If a long history of entertaining and employing canadians isn't seen to have value, combined with more Global focused generations, it doesn't come as a surprise.

However, I will continue to watch, support and promote this league until either the league is dead or I am.


I see many millennials at games though. The oldest millennials will be 39 this year and the youngest 25.

perhaps I should say millennials and younger.

what exactly is a millennial anyhow?

I have a couple of extra season tickets, plus, for health reasons, I had to miss a few games last year. It was difficult to find people who wanted to go to a game using our extra tickets, or our unused tickets. Even people we know right near Hamilton were not interested, rather watch NFL, or watch the local game on TV.

Having said that, the Cats usually claim near sellouts most games, although most sections are awash with empty seats. If people are actually attending, they aren’t the type of fan who stays in their seat and gets involved in the game.

Are we talking football's decline in participation, plain popularity amongst fans or both?

The CFL's disadvantage is it doesn't have something as iconic as Hockey Night in Canada. Kids can easily get into hockey for that reason, even if they don't play it, though simply being Canada's pastime sucks a lot of them into it. I had to have a girl explain to me that there were two football leagues. While I didn't know the CFL existed--I didn't know the NFL existed either.

What does football have? Friday Night Football or Monday Night Football, but those taglines are synonymous with the NFL. The CFL will never have something as iconic as Hockey Night in Canada so another approach is needed.

If the decision was up to me I would have the CJFL go to wraparound tackles only and less equipment to save cost. Go at it from a grassroots effort, if they don't already, and try to double the amount of CJFL teams. Lowering the cost of equipment would go a long way in making that more viable and taking the head out of the game, at least for the junior level, would alleviate a lot of parents' concerns about concussions. Going to wraparound tackles only would open up the game. Probably make it more exciting running less passing. These are kids that are just learning the game, so every play will not be up there, but changing the game fundamentally might make it more exciting.

Canadian football has failed. It needs to become its own thing by distinguishing itself further from the American game. Second best will no longer cut it. Innovation is what the world wants, not imitation--whether fair or not (like a movie being in production longer than a similar movie that manages to come out before it, thus being labeled a copycat by fans of said movie).

What is needed is more Canadian, less American.

I'm not a math or stats guy by anybody's estimation, and I don't have any data, but my gut tells me, that if you are athletic, as a Canadian athlete, you probably have better mathematical odds of making a pro career out of football than you do hockey. Think of the thousands and thousands of kids playing hockey compared to the hundreds and hundreds (?) playing football. At least in football you can still follow an educational path, if that is your choice. To succeed at hockey, you really have to put education on the back burner. Maybe what we need is more "Pop Warner" type leagues to get kids involved in football at a younger age, develop more Canadians, in the Canadian game. On the whole, my guess is it would be cheaper than hockey, and probably no more injury prone?

Your mathematical odds might be better of making the CFL ... but the best Canadian in the CFL makes a third, or less, than the 13th forward/7th defenceman on a NHL team ... and even less than the top-end veteran American Hockey League player

Excellent point GHT120, but still ......

It was a marketing term for gen Y, who was born early 80's to mid 90's.

If you graduated HS since the Millennium. (Class of 2000 or later)

Il faut bien réaliser que tant lles dépenses que le temps de loisir sont beaucoup plus répartis qu'avant, sans compter tout ce qui garde les gens chez eux plutôt qu'à l'extérieur (Fessebook, Netflix, jeux vidéo, streaming, foodies, etc).

What if you were supposed to have graduated in 1999 but failed, so you graduated in 2000 instead? Do you still qualify?