When the CFL was King 1977

Your absolutely right. The true tailgate experience would be incredible if done here. It is a sight to see in the US. The closest we come here is in Calgary

In Order for the CFL to start getting back to the #'s and the popularity it had back in it's prime there are a lot of things needed to be accomplished.

the one reason that attendance went down is because the Fans who went and sold out games everywhere got older and they didn't do a good job of passing on the importance and the enthusiasm of the CFL onto their Kids and then of course their kids didn't do the same with their own Kids.

the CFL has finally begun to get the #'s back by targeting the younger fans and getting corporate sponsorship.

but they need to go further.

Edmonton does the best job of all 8 teams in getting the word out to the community about the team. helps when you've gone 34 straight years with playoff appearances..

they do a bang up job with their players making appearances at schools, events, contests.

they give all the Minor football teams in the area free tickets to come see them play every year.

they advertise like crazy, and their media is very positive and influential about their team.

It's all about how much effort and money are you going to put into your community and surrounding cities to attract new potential fans.

as far as i'm concerned..

Edmonton and Saskatchewan and then Winnipeg are the Top 3 teams in the entire league when it comes to working their asses off to attract new fans.

Calgary and Montreal are 4th and 5th. but BC isn't that far behind! 35,000+ for their game last night was a good sign.

Hamilton does well but they could do more.

Toronto has to fight so much.

they already have negative hits from the Newspapers who already don't give them much help and are always being negative against the CFL and the Argos.

and they have to fight the who stigma that the NFL is better and it's cool to be an NFL fan.

the Argos need to do so much more and they truly need to keep fighting all the negative BS that occurs.

You make a really good point EVM. It's part of that whole big league perception problem.

This is a great debate guys however, I'd challenge this one to a certain degree. The Jays came into existence in '77 yet the Argos were still drawing huge crowds at Exhibition Stadium in the 7-8 years subsequent to their arrival on the scene.

It is my belief that crowds started to drop off at Argo games once they won the Grey Cup in '83, proving that sometimes "the chase" is better than "the conquest." The Argos, not unlike say, the Leafs, Canucks, or Cubs (extreme example) hadn't won a Championship in years. The were the loveable losers. Once they won the cup, it was like, okay....how do you top that??

The huge crowds in Mtl and Edm in '77 and '78 were more to do with fans wanting to check out their new stadiums, rather than a ground-swell of interest for the CFL. The crowds in Mtl soon dropped off...just like they did in Vancouver after the crowds of 40-50,000 in the new B.C. Place in 1983.

The CFL is bigger and generates more revenue today than in the late 70's. It's just that other sports leagues have grown even more in popularity in Canada... Baseball, NFL, NBA, Soccer have all grown. While the CFL has also grown, it's share of the Canadian sports pie has shrunk over the past few decades.

The biggest change in the sporting world since 1977 has been the massive increase in the NFL TV contract. In '77, the CFL could compete with NFL salaries, but today, some NFL teams earn $150 million a year from TV. In contrast, CFL teams earn about $1.5 million from TV (not including league sponsorship revenue).

While the NFL is heralded as the greatest sports league in the history of mankind, in truth, the NFL TV contract is a huge money-losing sinkhole for the TV networks...to the tune of about half a billion dollars a year. Just like the American economy, which borrows trillions of dollars and never pays it back, the NFL could also be living on borrowed time and at some point the poop will hit the fan. Not because the NFL/Super Bowl isn't popular, but because the networks have massively overpaid for the TV rights.

It might have been acceptable for the American networks to lose half a billion on the NFL as long as they were profitable, but network TV has been suffering with a loss of viewership and decreasing ad revenues. The NFL might be able to find another sucker cable network willing to give them billions for the right to lose money, but at some point that well could run dry...and like the American economy, the crows will come home to roost.

Ironically, the little 'ole CFL makes multi-millions in profits for TSN...while the league teeters on profit/loss and pays it's players peanuts. :roll:

The biggest change in the sporting world since 1977 has been the massive increase in the NFL TV contract. In '77, the CFL could compete with NFL salaries, but today, some NFL teams earn $150 million a year from TV. In contrast, CFL teams earn about $1.5 million from TV (not including league sponsorship revenue).

While the NFL is heralded as the greatest sports league in the history of mankind, in truth, the NFL TV contract is a huge money-losing sinkhole for the TV networks…to the tune of about half a billion dollars a year. Just like the American economy, which borrows trillions of dollars and never pays it back, the NFL could also be living on borrowed time and at some point the poop will hit the fan. Not because the NFL/Super Bowl isn’t popular, but because the networks have massively overpaid for the TV rights.


yes, and another factor for broadcast growth stems in not only, the increase in viewing households, yet also Network and cable/specialty channel boon during the past 30 years.

We now have ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Univision/Telemondo, NetworkTV, ION, and sports specialty channels such as 10 ESPN channels, Universal Sports, 6 NFL channels, Versus, Latino Networks etc etc etc etc etc
The game is marketed to every demographic and household in the U.S. as well as Canada through local networks and feeds.

And thusly, the stakes are high and the bidding wars ferocious, leading to the massive overpayment of the product and riches for the NFL.

Conversely, Canada offers two networks (CTV and CBC) one of which is a Crown Corporation with limited programming funds) and a smattering of sports specialty networks such as TSN and Sportsnet.
Far less tenders for the CFL rights than the NFL, resulting in a far less lucrative contracts.

If the CFL could expand it’s brand and garner more interest in American TV/cable viewership, (like the NFL has here) the financial picture could increase dramatically.

I agree in part with your point that ending the 31-year drought had something to do with the decline in interest. But it started much sooner than 1984. Here are attendance averages starting in 1976, the first year of the expanded stadium:

1976: 47,356
1977: 46,881
1978: 46,432
1979: 40,045
1980: 37,982
1981: 33,170
1982: 38,426
1983: 37,098
1984: 32,754
1985: 29,057
1986: 26,171
1987: 27,355
1988: 23,157

So a big decline from 1978 to 1979, and significant declines again in 1980 and 1981. Then upward witb the excitement of 1982-83, a big drop in 1984 and further drops in 1985, 1986 and 1988. The Jays became contenders in 1983 and won their first division title in 1985.

There is no question the Blue Jays had a significant impact on support for the Argos, and it started to become apparent after just two seasons of MLB in Toronto.

There were other factors, including TV blackouts and marketing. After winning the Grey Cup in 1983, the Argos spent virtually nothing on promotion in 1984. It was as if they expected fans to just keep flocking out to the stadium because the team was winning.

Exactly. The drop in interest wasn't immediate, but once the Jays started winning and they were being talked about on networks like NBC people jumped all over the "we're world class" bandwagon. Also, as you mentioned, the Argos and to an even larger extent the whole league did nothing to combat this in terms of promotion or raising their own profile

Exactly. The drop in interest wasn't immediate, but once the Jays started winning and they were being talked about on networks like NBC people jumped all over the "we're world class" bandwagon.
and this inherent perception can and should be overcome if marketed properly juxtaposed with diligent expansion and relayed generations.

The CRU/CFL was once a formidable league, second to none in North American football and we allowed the popularity of the game to slide while the American version skyrocket.

It will take time, although we are on the right track...albeit too slow for my taste. :?

Don't forget that back in the 70's, the New York Cosmos were drawing 70,000 and we all know how it turned out for the NASL. Let's face it, times change and sports fans change with the times. Back in the 70's, there were not as many options for the sports fan's time and money. Watching your favorite team live at the stadium was one of your few options back then. Now days sports fans can watch games on cable in HD. I don't go to nearly as many games that I used to years ago. Today I sit back and watch the game in the comfort of my TV room. As CFL attendance has gone down, I'll bet that CFL TV viewership has gone up. The sports fan is still there, he is just in the sports bar or his basement watching the game. If the CFL wants to improve attendance at games, they need to improve the game day experience. Allowing tailgating would be a start. It also would not hurt to have decent priced food and beverages. Honestly, when you factor in over priced beer, crappy expensive food, outrageous cost of parking and ever more expensive tickets, it is a wonder that anyone bothers to show up for a game. My hat off to the true sports fans that do fill the stadiums. God knows we don't make it easy for them.

Let's face it, times change and sports fans change with the times. Back in the 70's, there were not as many options for the sports fan's time and money. Watching your favorite team live at the stadium was one of your few options back then. Now days sports fans can watch games on cable in HD. I don't go to nearly as many games that I used to years ago. Today I sit back and watch the game in the comfort of my TV room. As CFL attendance has gone down, I'll bet that CFL TV viewership has gone up. The sports fan is still there, he is just in the sports bar or his basement watching the game.
Yes, times change as do consumer/fan interest and preferences. However, In the case of the NFL in America and NHL in Canada over past decades, both gate receipts are very healthy while broadcast numbers are also up substantially.

It appears that most countries adhere to one specific pro sport and generally maintain that status quo for the masses while the secondary sports ride the fringe and constantly cradle support..

True, basketball and baseball are still popular although not nearly to the obsession of the NFL and NHL in the U.S. and Canada respectively.

TSN needs top learn from the american networks with thier camera work of thier games. Make the product look alot more proffessinal on tv ,it will go along way to get people back.

And we, as Canadians, have to remind each other and our media that the NFL is a FOREIGN league in a FOREIGN country! No self-respecting Brit would admit that French, German or Italian soccer is better and let the home country's media get away with promoting it and showing it to the detriment of their own homegrown product. We should not allow it either but we do because we're Canadian and somehow we're afraid to stand up for Canadian institutions. Turn off the NFL and encourage every self-respecting Canadian to do likewise. Have you got it in you?

I love my country,,,,but we are the most pathetic country in the entire world...hands down...
If you walked into a German pub or an Italian Pub and stated," Put the Barclays EPL on.. These players are hacks...all the best players want to play in the EPL." You seriously would not get out of that pub without your life....
Yet in this pathetic country(that actually admires a third world nation, out of sheer ignorance and stupidity) nobody would say a word if you ripped the CFL and demanded the NFL...
I actually got laughed at 3 years ago in Coquitlam when I requested a regular seasom CFL game over a preseason NFL game...
For F sakes... The Score actually showed NFL hilights before the hilights for the Grey Cup game two years ago....the infamous 13th man game
This would only happen in this country... A nuclear bomb could level Africa...and if the AFL Grand Final had taken place the same day...it would still be the lead story in Oz(atleast the south anyways)

People in this country laugh at Americans for being ignorant and stupid... Yet we admire the third world haven..and have allowed them to steal all of our natural resources.. Who are the stupid ones now...
We are the most forign owned developed nation on the planet... Ive worked jobs in this country where you cant find a single Canadian employed in management... THEY ARE ALL AMERICANS!!!!!

OK so Bombs is in on board. Where are the rest of you?

I disagree that it isn't doing this already. TSN's coverage is superb, and probably the best coverage the league has ever had. Does it have as many cameras as NFL coverage can offer? Probably not, but it has sufficient to provide excellent coverage. It's very rare to see a challenged play, for example, that doesn't have enough angles to provided a conclusive answer.

The biggest issue for coverage is probably stadium facilities more than anything else. Newer stadiums appear to have more options for TV coverage. This will change, and is changing now as stadiums are upgraded.

Again, it's generally a perception problem. Some Canadians look enviously at the spectacular stadiums filled to the brim with people who were tailgating for hours before the game. They look at the enormous salaries for the players. They equate quality with presentation and popularity. What many don't see are the NFL stadiums with 30,000 empty seats — regular losing will do that to a team even in the NFL. They don't see that because a) they don't expect to see it and b) there is less opportunity to see it because there are so many other games that appear to be sold out.

The CFL is at present doing it right now IMHO, but it's not going to turn around quickly. The deal with TSN was an enormous first step because presentation and exposure is, I dunno, 60% of the battle in winning the hearts and minds of viewers. Stadium size is another; it's better to go small and fill it than to go huge and have it look half empty. It's a perception of success thing. Salaries can't hurt, but try telling the average Canadian making 40k a year that a QB making 400k a year is underpaid. Money isn't everything and that perception can be mostly overcome. As presentation is upgraded with newer stadia, continued excellent TV coverage of every game, lots of pregame and post game analysis, and showcase treatment on highlight packages people will respond over time.

The CFL can't get greedy either. It's more important that it continue to receive first class treatment from it's broadcast partner than to press for a contract bonanza after only one contract term. Continued long-term exposure will reap more benefits in the form of quality corporate sponsorship. Keep the money flowing, even if it isn't windfall dollars. That will create ownership stability in the long term and allow the league to gradually increase the salary cap without putting team profits in jeopardy. Regular stable income with lower risk will also, eventually (and as shown in Ottawa) attract blue chip potential owners, and help sell the idea of a stadium in places that don't have one big enough now (as shown in Moncton and maybe Halifax).

Are there things the CFL can do better? Of course there are:

  1. Continue to attack the money-is-quality perception problem. I say continue because there is evidence that the CFL is attempting to do that now. For example, by making a Big Deal out of Calvillo's pro-football passing yards accomplishment by having big names - Berman, Marino, Moon, Allen - send kudos for all to see. Those help add legitimacy for the doubters. The league has also moved, finally, to get better exposure in the U.S. Sure it's only ESPN3 and a couple of dozen regular season games on the NFL network, but remember that only a few years ago there were NO, zero, games shown in some regions down here. The league MUST keep up the exposure, even if it means it doesn't make a lot of money from the deals, because like it or not legitimacy with Americans will create a demand with both Americans AND Canadians. But it MUST be regular, consistent, and reliable exposure. GROW the brand. Eventually it will get highlights on ESPN's Sportscenter, and that would help enormously, but that will only happen when most Americans can actually watch a game on a regular basis.

  2. Press for stadium upgrades. This is already underway of course. Saskatchewan and Calgary need to somehow get on that. Create an atmosphere of a spectacle both at the park and on TV. Nothing breeds success like, well, success. Full stadiums look great on TV. And it doesn't need to have 60k+ fans either as long as it looks modern (ie: a bowl with enclosed end zones) and filled with fans enjoying a party atmosphere.

  3. Lobby hard for eventual changes in local laws to allow hassle-free, unfettered tail gate parties with BYOB and BBQs. People NEED to get more value for their ticket. Sure it won't always be a giant affair for those weeknight games, but certainly on weekends folks should be able to gather and socialize without feeling like they're herded cattle being exploited and lorded over by big brother and bully cops. This will take years of course given the glacial pace of government change, so START NOW. If you can get it done in one province the rest will eventually follow suit - though expect Ontario to be, pardon the expression, nursing the 'hind teat with this kind of progressive change for many years to come. Though perhaps not if they want that NFL team badly enough, because they ain't gonna get it by behaving like a tea-totalling prig.

  4. Find a new home for the Argos. Preferably one that is ONLY for football, and where the team has total control over the game-day experience, concessions, and revenues. See above. Full is better than huge and half empty. It's all about the event and creating a cozy party atmosphere free from exorbitant prices and meddlesome, unhelpful government. The team can still, à la les alouettes, rent the Rogers Centre when it needs it for big games. In the absence of tail gate parties, keep the stadium urban so people can use local bars to party before and after the game.

  5. Clean up the field if at all possible by getting rid of superfluous markings. Advertising it okay - people get that it's needed - but get rid of those ridiculous soccer pitch lines. Again, presentation is extremely important. Newer turf can allow for those lines to removed and added as needed.

  6. Keep negativity to a minimum by preventing labour disputes with the players and solving any other problems that come up. The CFL is doing a good job with this in Cohon's term. It has a new agreement with the players, has finally instituted a drug testing policy (regardless of how much teeth it has), and now has a solid, enforceable salary cap. These are the signs of a league that has it's act together. People notice things like this.

  7. Give your commissioner a new deal. Cohon has done more for this league in his short tenure than probably any other commissioner in the history of the league. He's interested, engaged, understands marketing, knows business, is savvy and affable, and fan-friendly. People generally (though probably not universally, but that's not important) like this guy. It would be a giant blunder to lose him. Don't let him get away.

If the CFL can eventually do all of these things, good things will continue to happen for this league. New teams will appear as modest profits become easier to consistently achieve, TV viewership will at the very least hold steady if not grow gradually, and the perception of the league as second-rate will begin to change. Success breeds success. Look and act like a league that knows where it's going, is available far and wide, works hard to produce an excellent game experience both on and off the field, and truly cares about the safety and well being of both its players and owners. Do these things and the CFL's future will be very, very bright.

Blarg, apologies for the grammar and spelling mistakes in the above :roll:

It's = Its where needed. I'm not as illiterate as I sometimes write, and please forgive the missing words - I get ahead of myself sometimes. I'd fix these mistakes if I had more time to edit.

Have at it. I'm sure some will disagree, or have much to add. :cowboy:

:thup: :thup: :thup:

Awesome post. This is good, constructive advice for both the league and the fans to consider.

All I would add is that I would also like to see investment in officiating...make the CFL officials full-time employees during the season, just like players are, and pay the zebras enough to live fairly well on. Also, invest in some training programs at lower levels, so that when the guys come up from CIS and Junior, they are ready to deal with the game at this level.

In Canada, its really not that hard to get permits for beer gardens for special events, (I've never been to so much as a softball tourney that didn't have a beer garden) so I fail to see why it would be much more difficult to get a similar permit for tailgating before games. Try doing it before Labour Day games for a year or two as a test balloon, and if it works, expand it.

Great points hit-em-hard. I shouldn't have neglected to mention continued investment in the refs. I'm pretty sure (though I can't say for a fact) the CFL does a fair amount of lower-level training now through the CIS, junior, high school and earlier levels, but it can most certainly do more where possible and as money permits. I don't know if having full-time refs is possible unless you pay them a yearly salary so they don't have to work at regular jobs half the year. That's a good idea though if it's doable.

Beer gardens are just okay. Not great but okay. They definitely are NOT a replacement for honest to goodness tail gate parties. I read recently that tail gaters are not allowed in Ontario because of a ban on "open fires". I'm not sure that a BBQ should be considered an open fire. That just seems, well, over-reaching to me. And drinking in public should be relaxed, because that's what's needed at tail gate parties. You simply can't have a tail gate party if you have the beer police ruining your day.

And by the way, while public drinking where I am is allowed for tail gate parties, that doesn't mean it's allowed outside the relative immediate area of the stadium. If you try and walk into the stadium with a beer you will definitely have it taken away from you, and probably not in a friendly way either. At the Oakland Coliseum there are receptacles for empties scattered throughout the area, and outside the tail gate area there are plenty of empties collectors who will clean up the area to get the bottle return refunds. Walking down the street with alcohol any other time is strictly verboten, just as it is pretty much anywhere.