5 – GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS: The good news is that there will be pro football in Canada because the CFL is not folding. The bad news is there’s a solid chance we may not see it again for awhile. Since Wednesday I’ve spoken with five solid sources whose stories on the CFL/XFL merger and 2021 season are all generally the same. One of their messages began with “You deserve to know truth” which I never questioned but I’m guessing it’s because we cover the CFL so closely and talk about it everyday on the RP Show. Talking to these sources and disseminating their information feels a whole lot like patching together a quilt. So here goes ..
6 – 2021: There seems to be three clear hurdles the CFL needs to clear to get onto the field this summer or fall – 1) Covid/Variant, which is self-explanatory, 2) Money. Will the Federal government step up with funding to play or to stay alive? Or will the owners “bite the bullet” themselves to foot the bill to play like former Commissioner Larry Smith suggested on TSN Montreal last week? and 3) Convincing the teams who DON’T want to play, otherwise. If there’s only one team dissenting, then that team is the Toronto Argonauts and MLSE. Remember last year the vote to play was 6-3 in favour, and yet the season was cancelled. Why would it be any different one year later? Read on ..
7 – THE BACKSTORY : One unimpeachable source told me the moment MLSE realized it’s impossible to turn a profit with the Argonauts (roughly two years ago), they immediately turned their attention to blowing up the CFL and making it a profit-making venture. At this point in the story you might want to research MLS ownership because it’s a big part of what’s going down. And this is huge. The vision is central ownership with shareholder-held franchises which has proven to ensure sustainability, then profitability.
Remember that source I quoted a year ago who said, “MLSE is running the CFL”? He told me yesterday that they’re simply a year further down that path and the pandemic, and folding of the XFL, have only expedited the plan. Everything is lining up more perfectly than they ever could’ve imagined.
8 – NFL TORONTO : There are other sources out of Toronto who’ve confirmed this and more. It’s a grand plan but I’m told the ultimate enchilada ends with an NFL team in Toronto, a converted Rogers Centre-to-NFL facility, the Blue Jays playing elsewhere downtown, and the CFL/XFL league existing as proof Canadians love football but aren’t a threat to NFL Toronto.
Dizzy yet? The central figure to this all is one Larry Tanenbaum who just happens to be the Chairman of MLSE, a 25% owner of the company, and the new best friend of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Remember last week when Goodell said, “Canada is a very important market to us.”?
They’re hiding in plain sight.
)9 – BACK TO THIS SEASON:** I was perhaps a little harsh on ALL CFL operators on the show this week but that was born out of my own frustration, plus the cries of beleaguered CFL players and staffers who simply want an answer for this season with training camps planned for a month away. The Covid situation is what it is and likely the smartest/safest scenario is to scrap this season and build for whatever the next version of the CFL is to be. However current CFL operators, the majority anyway, want to play for the good of the league and their employees and the fact is the majority of them wanted to play LAST YEAR. But sources have all confirmed to me that MLSE is all about – entirely about – balance sheets and care little for the history and viability of the CFL nor the people who keep it running. If it’ll cost more to play than not play, then their vote is to not play. Pretty easy. MLSE is truly a faceless, emotionless corporation but with NBA, MLS and CFL trophies in their lobby – plus ownership of the #1 NHL team in Canada – who can say they’re wrong???
The hold up is more about convincing every team to play than it is about fans in the stands. (This explains why the Return To Play proposals have been approved in five out of six provinces). There have been suggestions about playing without the dissenters (because perhaps the Argos aren’t the only ones. They weren’t last year). To me, this is where CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie needs to stand on the table and yell “WE’RE PLAYING WITH OR WITHOUT YOU!”
But Randy’s a smart guy and this would’ve dawned on him already. Are there legal issues with playing a season minus one or two teams? Likely. That would take time to sort out, which the CFL clearly doesn’t have. Does he even want to tick off MLSE knowing they’re the big fish in this pond? Remember he declined to fine them in 2019 despite being the only team who went over the salary cap.
As the world turns …