Canadian Football League
|Current season, competition or edition:
2015 CFL season
|Founded||January 17, 1958
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Motto||This Is Our League
Notre ligue. Notre football.
|No. of teams||9|
|Most recent champion(s)||Calgary Stampeders (7th title)|
|Most titles||Edmonton Eskimos (10)|
NBCSN, ESPN, ESPN2 ESPN3 (US)
BT Sport, BT Sport ESPN (UK & Ireland)
|Official website||English: http://www.cfl.ca
The Canadian Football League (CFL; French: Ligue canadienne de football, LCF) is a professional sports league in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football, a form of gridiron football closely related to American football. Its nine current teams, which are located in nine separate cities, are divided into two divisions: the East Division, with four teams, and the West Division with five teams. As of 2015, the league features a 20-week regular season, which traditionally runs from late June to early November; each team plays 18 games with at least two bye weeks. Following the regular season, six teams compete in the league's three-week divisional playoffs, which culminate in the late-November Grey Cup championship, the country's largest annual sports and television event.
The CFL was officially founded on January 19, 1958, making it the second oldest professional gridiron football league in North America still in operation. However, most of its teams long predate the modern formation of the league, and many of them have been playing each other since the 1920s.
- 1 History
- 2 Season structure
- 3 Broadcasting
- 4 Players and compensation
- 5 CFL Draft
- 6 CFL–NFL comparisons
- 7 League commissioners
- 8 Teams
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Rugby football began to be played in Canada in the 1860s, and many of the first Canadian football teams played under the auspices of the [Canadian Rugby Football Union (CRFU), founded in 1884. The CRFU was reorganized as the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) in 1891, and served as an umbrella organization for several provincial and regional unions. The Grey Cup was donated by Governor General Earl Grey in 1909 to the team winning the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada. By that time, the sport as played in Canada had diverged markedly from its rugby origins, and started to become more similar to the American game. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the two senior leagues of the CRU, the eastern Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU or Big Four) and Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) gradually evolved from amateur to professional leagues, and amateur teams such as those in the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) were no longer competitive in their Cup challenges. The ORFU withdrew from Grey Cup competition after the 1954 season, heralding the start of the modern era of professional Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams (Since 1965, Canada's top amateur teams, competing in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), have competed for the Vanier Cup).
In 1956, the IRFU and WIFU formed a new umbrella organization, the Canadian Football Council (CFC). In 1958, the CFC left the CRU and became the Canadian Football League. As part of an agreement between the CRU and CFL, the CFL took possession of the Grey Cup, even though amateurs hadn't competed for it since 1954. The CRU remained the governing body for amateur play in Canada, eventually adopting the name Football Canada. Initially, the two unions remained autonomous, and there was no intersectional play between eastern (IRFU) and western (WIFU) teams except at the Grey Cup final. This situation was roughly analogous to how the American baseball leagues operated for years. The IRFU was renamed the Eastern Football Conference in 1960, while the WIFU was renamed the Western Football Conference in 1961. Also in 1961, limited intersectional play was introduced. It was not until 1981 that the two conferences agreed to a full merger, becoming the East and West Divisions of the CFL. With the merger came a full interlocking schedule of 16 games per season.
The separate histories of the IRFU and the WIFU accounted for the fact that two teams had basically the same name: the IRFU's Ottawa Rough Riders were often called the "Eastern Riders", while the WIFU's Saskatchewan Roughriders were called the "Western Riders" or "Green Riders". Other team names had traditional origins. With rowing a national craze in the late 19th century, the Argonaut Rowing Club of Toronto formed a rugby team for its members' off-season participation. The football team name Toronto Argonauts still remains even though it and the rowing club have long since gone their separate ways. After World War II, the two teams in Hamilton—the Tigers and the Flying Wildcats—merged both their organizations into the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The league remained stable with nine franchises—the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Alouettes—from its 1958 inception until 1981. After the 1981 season, the Alouettes folded and were replaced the same year by a new franchise named the Concordes.
In 1986 the Concordes were renamed the Alouettes to attract more fan support, but the team folded the next year. The demise of the Alouettes forced the League move its easternmost Western team, Winnipeg, into the East Division.
United States expansion
In 1993, the league admitted its first United States-based franchise, the Sacramento Gold Miners. After modest success, the league then expanded further in the U.S. in 1994 with the Las Vegas Posse, Baltimore Stallions, and Shreveport Pirates. For the 1995 campaign, the American teams were split off into their own South Division, and two more teams, the Birmingham Barracudas and Memphis Mad Dogs, were added; at the same time, the Posse folded and the Gold Miners relocated to become the San Antonio Texans. In 1995 the Stallions became the only non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup.
Despite all American teams having the advantage of not being bound to the CFL's minimum Canadian player quotas, only the Stallions proved to be an on-field and off-field success. The establishment of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, worsening financial problems among the league's core Canadian teams, and the inconsistent performance of the American teams prompted the CFL to abandon its American experiment and retrench its Canadian operations. The Stallions organization was used as the basis for a revival of the Montreal Alouettes.
The CFL returned to an all-Canadian format in 1996 with nine teams; however, the Ottawa Rough Riders, in existence since 1876, folded after the 1996 season. Toronto and recently revived Montreal also were struggling; Montreal's woes were solved by moving to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, a much smaller venue than the cavernous Olympic Stadium.
In 1997, the NFL provided a $3-million USD interest-free loan to the financially struggling CFL. In return, the NFL was granted access to CFL players entering a defined two-month window in the option year of their contract. This was later written into the CFL's collective bargaining agreement with its players. The CFL's finances have since stabilized and they eventually repaid the loan. The CFL–NFL agreement expired in 2006. Both leagues have been attempting to reach a new agreement, but the CFL broke off negotiations in November 2007 after Canadian telecommunications firm Rogers Communications paid $78 million to host seven Bills games in Toronto over five seasons.
In 2002, the league expanded back to nine teams with the creation of the Ottawa Renegades. After four seasons of financial losses, the Renegades were suspended indefinitely before the 2006 season; their players were absorbed by the remaining teams in a dispersal draft.
In 2005, the league set an all-time attendance record with a total attendance of more than 2.3 million. With the absence of Ottawa from 2006 onwards, league attendance has hovered around the 2 million mark. It stood at 2,029,875 in 2012 for a single game average of 28,193. The 2007 season was a recent high point with average game attendance of 29,167, the best since 1983. The 2012 season was another significant milestone for the league, marking the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup award. With Toronto defeating Calgary, the league was rewarded with the highest ever television ratings for a championship game in English Canada.
In 2008 the CFL granted a conditional expansion franchise to play in Ottawa. This team began play in 2014 as the Ottawa Redblacks, allowing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved back to the West Division.
The CFL has the third highest per-game attendance of any North American sports league and the seventh highest per-game attendance of any sports league worldwide. A recent survey conducted at the University of Lethbridge confirmed that the CFL is the second most popular sports league in Canada, with the following of 19% of the total adult Canadian population compared to 30% for the NHL. The NFL had 11% following, with a total of 26% following at least one of the pro football leagues. This could be interpreted to mean that approximately 80% of Canadian football fans follow the CFL and about 55% follow the NFL.
The 2010s will be a significant decade for the CFL in terms of growth, as teams have renovated, expanded stadiums, or plan to build entirely new stadiums. The Montreal Alouettes accomplished this first, adding 5,000 seats to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium in time for the 2010 CFL season. The Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders also renovated their respective stadiums and facilities for the 2010 season. In 2011, the BC Lions played under a new, retractable roof in BC Place after spending one and a half seasons at Empire Field. In 2013, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved to an entirely new stadium at the University of Manitoba. The 2014 expansion Ottawa Redblacks played in a new stadium, and also in 2014, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats began using their new stadium. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are also looking at moving to a new stadium in a few years.
On May 22, 2015, Michael Sam signed a two-year contract with Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. The signing made him the first openly gay player in the league's history. Sam left the team the day before the first preseason game, citing personal reasons. As reported by Fox Sports, Sam has returned to Montreal to continue his professional football career. but again left on August 14, permanently, again citing personal reasons.
As of 2014, the CFL season includes:
- A two-game, three-week exhibition season (or pre-season) in mid-June
- An 18-game, 20-week regular season running from late June to early November
- A six-team, three-week single elimination playoff tournament beginning in November and culminating in the Grey Cup championship in late November. Championship teams will play either two or three playoff games, including the Grey Cup game, depending on their standing at the end of the regular season. The division leader at the end of the regular season receives a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Team training camps open 28 days prior to the first regular season game of the season, a camp solely devoted to first year players is allowed the 3 days before the main camp opens. The pre-season exhibition schedule is two weeks long with each team playing two games against teams from its own division.
The regular season is 20 weeks long, with games beginning Canada Day weekend and finishing by early November. The CFL's nine current teams are divided into two divisions: the East Division with four teams and the West Division, with five teams. Each team plays three games against two teams in its own division, and two games against the other six teams on a rotating basis. With 81 regular season games being played, each team gets two bye weeks except for one team that plays two games in one week and receives three bye weeks.
The most popular featured week in the CFL season is the Labour Day Classic, played over the course of the Labour Day weekend, where the matchups feature the first half of home-and-home series between the traditional geographic rivalries of Toronto–Hamilton (a rivalry which began in 1873), Edmonton–Calgary (see Battle of Alberta), and Winnipeg–Saskatchewan. With the return of Ottawa, it is expected that they will resume playing Montreal to round out the week's games. In years that Ottawa or Montreal were not in the league, BC would play against one of these teams. The following week's rematch of these games is a popular event as well, especially in recent years, where the rematch of the Saskatchewan–Winnipeg game has been dubbed the Banjo Bowl.
Other features of the regular season schedule are the Hall of Fame Game and the Thanksgiving Day Classic, the doubleheader held on Thanksgiving where the match ups usually do not feature traditional rivalries. Starting in 2010, a neutral site regular season game was played in Moncton under the name Touchdown Atlantic, which has been played in three of the last four seasons.
The league awards points based on regular season results (two for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss). As of the 2011 season, in the event two or more teams in a division finish the season with the same number of points, the tie is broken based on the following criteria (in descending order):
- Number of wins in all games;
- Winning percentage in games between the tied teams;
- Net aggregate of points scored (i.e. total points scored less total points conceded) between the tied teams;
- Net quotient of points scored (i.e. total points scored divided by total points conceded) between the tied teams;
- Winning percentage in divisional games;
- Net aggregate of points scored in divisional games;
- Net quotient of points scored in divisional games;
- Net aggregate of points scored in all games;
- Net quotient of points scored in all games;
- Coin toss
The playoffs begin in November. After the regular season, the top team from each division has an automatic home berth in the division final, and a bye week during the division semifinal. The second-place team from each division hosts the third-place team in the division semifinal, unless a fourth-place team from one division finishes with a better record than a third place team in the other (this provision is known as the crossover rule, and while it implies that it is possible for two teams in the same division to play for the Grey Cup, only two crossover teams have won a semifinal since the rule's 1996 inception, and neither advanced to the Grey Cup). The winners of each division's semifinal game then travel to play the first place teams in the division finals. Since 2005, the division semifinals and division finals have been sponsored by Scotiabank. The two division champions then face each other in the Grey Cup game, which, since 2007, has been held on the fourth or fifth Sunday of November.
The Grey Cup is both the name of the championship of the CFL and the name of the trophy awarded to the victorious team. The Grey Cup is the second-oldest trophy in North American professional sports, after the Stanley Cup. The Grey Cup game is hosted in one of the league's member cities. In recent years, it has been hosted in a different city every year, selected two or more years in advance. The Toronto Argonauts have won the most Grey Cups with sixteen wins total, most recently in 2012. In 2012, the game was held in Toronto at the Rogers Centre, and for the second year in row the cup was won on a team's home field, Toronto beating Calgary 35–22. In 2013, the Grey Cup was won at home for the third consecutive time (by the Saskatchewan Roughriders), which had not been done since Toronto won at home from 1945-1947. In 2014, the Grey Cup was won at BC Place by the Calgary Stampeders beating the Hamilton Tiger-cats 20-16.
As the country's single largest annual sporting event, the Grey Cup has long served as an unofficial Canadian autumn festival generating national media coverage and a large amount of revenue for the host city. Many fans travel from across the country to attend the game and the week of festivities that lead up to it. A 2014 survey found that 48% of Canadians would prefer to watch the Grey Cup over the Super Bowl if they could only watch one or the other, with 52% preferring the Super Bowl.
Following the Grey Cup game, the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player and Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian are selected. A number of league individual player awards, such as the Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player, are awarded annually at a special ceremony in the host city during the week before the Grey Cup game; this ceremony is broadcast nationally on TSN. The Annis Stukus Trophy, also known as the Coach of the Year Award, is awarded separately at a banquet held during the off-season each February. While the CFL has not held an all-star game since 1988, an All-Star Team is selected and honoured at the league awards ceremony during Grey Cup week.
The CFL Championship game, the Grey Cup, held the record for the largest television audience in Canadian history. Television coverage on CBC, CTV and Radio-Canada of the 1983 Grey Cup attracted a viewing audience of 8,118,000 people as Toronto edged B.C. 18–17, ending a 31-year championship drought for the Argonauts. At the time, this represented 33% of the Canadian population. This has since been surpassed by the 2002 and 2010 Men's Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Game.
Currently, the official television broadcasters of CFL games are cable network TSN (which began televising CFL games in 1985), while TSN's French-language network RDS broadcasts Montreal Alouettes games for the Quebec television market. Games are typically scheduled for Thursday to Saturday evenings during June, July and August, but switch to more Saturday and Sunday afternoon games during September and October. TSN has created a tradition of at least one Friday night game each week, branded as Friday Night Football. CBC and TSN drew record television audiences for CFL broadcasts in 2005. The 2006 season was the first season in which every regular-season game was televised, as the league implemented an instant replay challenge system. In 2006, the CFL also began offering pay-per-view webcasts of every game on CFL Broadband. Until the end of the 2007 season, CBC and RDS were the exclusive television broadcasters for all playoff games, including the Grey Cup, which regularly draws a Canadian viewing audience in excess of 4 million.
Since 2008, TSN and RDS are the exclusive television and Internet broadcasters of all CFL games, including the playoffs and Grey Cup. The five-year agreement, which includes an option for a sixth year, is worth about $16 million annually and marks the first time since 1952 that CBC will not be broadcasting any CFL games. The CFL will no longer be broadcast on Canadian terrestrial television, unless TSN chooses to air the game on its terrestrial partners, CTV or CTV Two (formerly A-Channel); as of 2011, TSN has not transferred any CFL games to broadcast TV. The move to TSN all but assures that all CFL games will be broadcast in high definition. As of 2006[update], TSN was available in about 8.8 million of Canada's 13 million households. The two play-by-play announcers are Chris Cuthbert and Rod Black while the colour commentators are Glen Suitor (with Cuthbert) and Duane Forde (with Black). Instead of merely exercising the option on the contract, TSN opted to renew the contract with the CFL (and thus extend the terrestrial blackout) through 2018 in an agreement announced in March 2013.
On June 26, 2013, it was announced that the CFL's U.S. broadcast rights would return to the ESPN Networks for the 2013 season, with 5 games airing on ESPN2, and 55 airing on ESPN3. This agreement was renewed in 2014 for five years, the same length as the TSN deal (ESPN holds a stake in TSN), with a stipulation that at least 17 games would be carried on ESPN2 (or another ESPN network, such as ESPN or ESPNEWS) each season, including the Grey Cup; this gives ESPN exclusive CFL rights during this time frame. As in previous years, ESPN3 will carry all games not carried on one of the linear channels online.
On June 19, 2015, it was announced that ESPN Brasil will broadcast CFL games live, beginning on June 25, as a result of the growth of the NFL and College Football fan base in Brazil.
Previous broadcasting arrangements
CBC Television, which held a monopoly on Canadian television until 1961, held Canadian professional football broadcast rights beginning the year of its debut, 1952. CTV was born in 1961 part because Toronto businessman Spence Caldwell had won the television rights to the Eastern Conference, and needed a network to air the games. From 1962 through 1986, CBC and CTV shared CFL broadcasting rights. They split playoff games and simulcast the Grey Cup. In 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1970, CTV commentators were used for the dual network telecast, while in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1969, CBC announcers were provided. From 1971 through 1986, one network's crew called the first half while the other called the rest of the game. After the 1986 season, CTV dropped coverage of the CFL and the Grey Cup. From 1987 through 1990, the CFL operated its own syndicated network, CFN. Like CTV, CFN split playoff games with CBC. However, CFN had completely separate coverage of the Grey Cup, utilizing its own production and commentators. From 1991 to 2007, all post-season games had been exclusively on CBC; beginning in 2008, the Grey Cup was carried on TSN, although the cable provider reserves the right to move the game to sister network CTV.
The predecessor to the CFL's East Division, the IRFU, had a television contract with NBC in 1954 that provided far more coverage than the NFL's existing contract with DuMont. NBC aired games on Saturday afternoons, competing against college football broadcasts on CBS and ABC. The revenue from the contract allowed the IRFU to directly compete against the NFL for players in the late 1950s, setting up a series of CFL games in the United States beginning in 1958 and a series of interleague exhibitions beginning in 1959. Interest in the CFL in the United States faded dramatically after the debut of the American Football League in 1960.
In 1982, during a players' strike in the NFL, NBC broadcast CFL games in the United States in lieu of the NFL games which were cancelled; the first week of broadcasts featured the NFL on NBC broadcast teams, before a series of blowout games on the network and the resulting low ratings resulted in NBC cutting back and eventually cancelling its CFL coverage. ESPN host Chris Berman became a fan of the game in the early days of ESPN, when the network used to air CFL games, and continues to cover the Canadian league on-air. FNN-SCORE (unrelated to the Canadian The Score) carried games in the late 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, SportsChannel America carried games, using CBC Television, CFN and TSN feeds. In 1993, several SportsChannel Pacific-produced games that were part of the Sacramento Gold Miners' local package were also shown nationally.
Beginning in 1994, with now four US-based teams in the league, ESPN reached a four-year deal with the league to produce and air two games per week and all post-season games on its fledgling ESPN2. They also put some games on the main network to fill broadcast time vacated by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike. The 1994 and 1995 Grey Cups were shown live on ESPN2 and then re-aired on ESPN the following day, leading into the network's Monday Night Countdown show. ESPN's on-air talent included a mix of the network's American football broadcasters and established CFL broadcasters from Canada. Most of the US-based teams also had deals with local carriers to show games that were not covered in the national package. Though there were no US teams in the league after 1995, ESPN2 continued showing games until 1997, albeit on a much lighter schedule.
America One held CFL broadcast rights in the United States from 2001 to 2009 and aired a majority of the league's games. Until the 2007 season, America One syndicated CFL games to regional sports networks like Altitude, NESN, and MASN; these were discontinued in 2008, mainly because America One and the CFL were able to reach a deal only days before the season began, not allowing the network time to establish agreements with individual RSNs. The Grey Cup aired on Versus on November 22, 2008, with a replay the next day on America One. From 2006 through the 2008 season, Friday Night Football was carried exclusively on World Sport HD in the United States; however, due to the January 2009 shutdown of that channel's parent company, Voom HD Networks, America One reclaimed those rights.
NFL Network took over the league broadcast contract in 2010. For the 2010 season, the network carried 14 games, no more than one each week. For 2011, the network increased its output to two games each week. NFL Network declined to continue its coverage after the 2011 season.
In late July 2012, NBC Sports Network acquired rights to the CFL for the remainder of the 2012 season. The NBCSN deal included nine regular season games starting August 27 (including Labour Day Classic games) and all the playoffs. NBC Sports renewed their agreement with the CFL for the 2013 season.
ESPN America carried a collection of CFL games as part of its lineup until the network shut down in 2013.
On the Internet, all radio broadcasts of CFL games are available for free through each affiliate's Web site. As of 2010, ESPN3 is the only place where CFL games are broadcast on Internet television. ESPN3 (and its predecessor, ESPN360) have broadcast games since 2008; the service is only available in the United States (or its military bases) through specially negotiated cable providers and not in Canada. Video broadcasts were free in Canada at one time, but are no longer available; viewers are able to purchase previous games on the TSN website. A service known as "CFL Broadband" offered pay-per-view of CFL games in the United States and elsewhere prior to 2009, but the service ceased operations prior to the 2010 season. During America One's time broadcasting CFL games, some CFL video feeds could be found for free due to the fact that a small number of America One affiliates streamed their video on the Internet, even though the CFL discouraged this.
CFL teams have local broadcast contracts with terrestrial radio stations for regular season and playoff games, while TSN Radio owns the rights to the Grey Cup. In 2006, Sirius Satellite Radio gained exclusive rights for North American CFL satellite radio broadcasts and broadcast 25 CFL games per season, including the Grey Cup, through 2008.
Players and compensation
The CFL began enforcing a salary cap for the 2007 season of $4.05 million per team. The cap was raised to $4.2 million in the 2008 season and remained at that level for 2009. On June 29, 2010, a new collective bargaining agreement was ratified that raised the salary cap to $4.25 million for the 2010 CFL season and would continue to increase by $50,000 each season until 2013. In 2014, a new CBA was ratified and the salary cap was raised to $5 million per team, with that amount increasing again by $50,000 each year until 2018. Financial penalties for teams that breach the cap are set at $1 to $1 for the first $100,000 over, $2 to $1 for $100,000 to $300,000 over, and $3 to $1 for $300,000 and above. Penalties could also include forfeited draft picks. For 2010, the minimum team salary was set at $3.9 million while the minimum player salary was set at $42,000. With the new CBA in 2014, the salary floor was raised to $4.4 million per team with increases of $50,000 per year, and the minimum salary was raised to $50,000 per year. The average salary per player in 2014 was $96,000 CAD.
In 2006, the active roster limit was increased from 40 to 42 and in 2014 it was again increased to 44. Each team must abide by the national/international ratio rule, which requires teams to keep at least 21 national players, ("a Canadian citizen at the time of signing his first contract, was classified as a non-import prior to May 31, 2014, or was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of five years prior to reaching the age of 18.") with the other 23 players allowed to originate from any country; quarterbacks, of which a team can carry three on a roster, cannot be counted toward the national player requirement, which puts Canadian quarterbacks at a disadvantage compared to other positions in being hired by a CFL franchise. Teams may have up to two players on their reserve roster, and up to 10 on their practice roster. CFL players are represented by the Canadian Football League Players' Association (CFLPA). Each team elects two players to the CFLPA Board of Player Representatives, which meets once per year. Every two years, it elects an executive Board of Directors.
Eligible non-imports (usually from CIS football or American college football) are drafted by teams in the annual Canadian College Draft. The CFL Draft usually takes place in May and consists of seven rounds. The first two rounds of the draft are usually shown live on TSN. The CFL Combine (formerly known as the Evaluation Camp), similar to the NFL Combine, precedes the draft. A junior player in the locale of a team may be claimed as a territorial exemption and sign with that team before beginning collegiate play (one recent example is when the BC Lions claimed Andrew Harris). Teams maintain "negotiation lists" of players they wish to sign as free agents.
During the 1950s and 1960s exhibition games were played between CFL and NFL/AFL teams using a mixture of each league's rules. The last such exhibition game was on August 8, 1961, when the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the AFL's Buffalo Bills. This was the only time in which a Canadian team defeated an American team in the series.
In the days when sports teams were financed almost entirely by ticket sales, the CFL and NFL were, financially speaking, on relatively equal footing. In the 1970s, CFL teams signed top U.S. college football players such as Johnny Rodgers, Joe Theismann, and Tom Cousineau. As late as the 1970s and early 1980s, when high-capacity stadiums were built in Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto, people such as Montreal Alouettes owner Nelson Skalbania continued to believe that relative parity could be sustained so long as the CFL could get larger stadiums built in its other cities and sell them out.
However, by the 1980s it became clear that financial parity between the two leagues would not be maintained, not so much because of the disparity in attendance figures, but because of the NFL's increasingly lucrative television contracts that now bring in a majority of the NFL's revenue. The CFL could not hope to negotiate similar contracts with Canadian networks because the U.S. television market is more than ten times the size of Canada's (whereas, at the time, the NFL only had three times as many teams as the CFL). One exception to this trend occurred in 1991 when the Toronto Argonauts signed U.S. college star Raghib "Rocket" Ismail to the then-unheard of sum of $18.2 million spread over four years. This proved unsustainable, and Ismail left for the NFL after two seasons. Currently, the difference in average salaries between the CFL and NFL is significant, with only a handful of CFL players making more than the NFL minimum.
There is a large salary discrepancy between the NFL and CFL, however this does not mean that the CFL necessarily has less talented players as the two games are very different, requiring different kinds of players. CFL teams often recruit skilled players who would be considered undersized by NFL standards. A player can be considered too small for the NFL and get cut from the team despite immense talent simply because that player's style of game due to body size would not translate into NFL success and sign in the CFL due to the players size and skill-set pertaining more to the Canadian game. However due to the stigma of the CFL's lower salaries attributed to the leagues lower television revenue and having been cut from the NFL, due to size rather than skill, many believe there is a large talent discrepancy between the two leagues when in fact the two leagues aim to find players with different physical tools and skill-sets. Since the CFL has a larger field playing surface in comparison to an NFL field, CFL rosters require players that are fast enough to take advantage of the open space while on offence and fast enough to cover the entire field while on defence. CFL players must take advantage of and cover more field where as the NFL players must cover less and have less space to work with.
Success has come to many players that have competed in both leagues during their careers despite the two leagues having very different styles of play. Two people have been elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame: quarterback Warren Moon and coach Bud Grant. There are many cases of CFLers going to the NFL and having success, appearing in the Pro Bowl including Joe Horn, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Joe Theismann, Cameron Wake, Doug Flutie, Brandon Browner, Jeff Garcia, Sam Etcheverry, Joe Pisarcik, Trent Green, Joe Kapp and Cookie Gilchrist. Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches Marv Levy and Bud Grant are also good examples. Some NFL players such as Vince Ferragamo and Mark Gastineau were great in the NFL but their style of play did not translate to Canadian Football and resulted in very poor play.
|Ted Workman (interim)||1967|
|Bill Baker[tablenote 1]||1989|
|J. Donald Crump[tablenote 2]||1992|
|David Braley (interim)||2002|
|Jim Lawson (interim)||2015|
- In 1989, the commissioner role was split into two positions. Bill Baker held the title of President/Chief Operating Officer. Roy McMurtry, Q.C. held the position of Chairman/Chief Executive Officer. When Baker resigned, McMurtry continued as Chairman and CEO until Crump's appointment but did not serve as Acting Commissioner.
- Between Donald Crump's resignation and Larry Smith's appointment, Phil Kershaw held the role of Chairman but was not acting Commissioner.
1. The Alouettes play their regular season games at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium and playoff games at Olympic Stadium.
2. The Argonauts are managed by MLSE, but only two of the company's principals (Tanenbaum and Bell Media) own stakes in the team.
The most recent expansion of the CFL was the establishment of the Ottawa Redblacks which began play in 2014.
Potential CFL expansion markets are the Maritimes, Quebec City, Saskatoon, London, and Windsor, all of which have been lobbying (unsuccessfully to date) for Canadian Football League franchises in recent years.
Since the 1980s, the CFL has occasionally played exhibition and, later, regular-season games at various cities in the Maritimes, including Canada Games Stadium in Saint John, New Brunswick; Huskies Stadium in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Moncton Stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick. The league conditionally approved an expansion franchise, the Atlantic Schooners, for play in the 1984 season, but the team never made it to play.
The Maritime Provinces lack a permanently suitable CFL stadium, which was the main problem that kept the Schooners off the field. As of 2010, the largest stadium in the Maritimes is Moncton Stadium, which has 10,000 permanent seats and can reach 20,000 capacity with temporary seats. A pre-season game, dubbed Touchdown Atlantic, was held in Halifax in the 2005 CFL season and regular season games were played in Moncton under the same branding in 2010, 2011, and 2013. All 20,000 seats for the 2010 Moncton game sold out in 32 hours; the 2013 game did not sell out. Former Commissioner Mark Cohon has stated that Moncton Stadium would require massive renovations, the cost of which would be comparable to that of constructing a whole new stadium, to host a CFL team permanently.
Although Atlantic Canada's expansion bids have typically branded themselves as covering all of Atlantic Canada, the presence of gridiron football at any level in Newfoundland and Labrador is practically nonexistent and none of the efforts have attempted to include that province.
There has also been interest in adding a team in Quebec City. In 2003, an exhibition game was held at PEPS Le Stade Extérieur between the Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa Renegades where Montreal won 54–23. In May 2009, Christina Saint Marche, a British businesswoman, announced her interest in operating a team in Quebec City—stating that there would be a natural rivalry with the Montreal Alouettes. During the 2010 Grey Cup state of the league news conference, Cohon noted that the Alouettes hold the rights for the entire province of Quebec and that any expansion would have to be negotiated with them first. Another exhibition game was held in the city on June 13, 2015, when the Montreal Alouettes beat the Ottawa Redblacks 26 to 9. Since Ottawa was unable to use their home stadium TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne Park due to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup this game was listed as Ottawa's home pre-season game. 
Saskatoon last hosted top-level Canadian football around 1941, when the Saskatoon Hilltops (along with another Saskatchewan-based team, the Moose Jaw Millers) suspended operations due to World War II; the Hilltops would remain an amateur team when they returned in 1947 (they have since played in the Canadian Junior Football League). Saskatoon had not won a provincial title since 1921 and by the point of the Hilltops' closure the Regina Roughriders had been the dominant team in the province for two decades.
In early 2012, management at Credit Union Centre publicly expressed its desire to bring a CFL team to Saskatoon. However, the Regina-based Saskatchewan Roughriders have long branded themselves as a province-wide team, and claimed that Saskatchewan is too small to support two teams. In any event, Saskatoon also lacks a suitable outdoor stadium (the largest, Griffiths Stadium, seats only 6,171 spectators, and the Gordie Howe Bowl, which has hosted CFL exhibitions in the past, has even fewer seats).
Defunct and proposed teams
|Team||City||Stadium||Years in CFL|
|Baltimore Stallions||Baltimore, Maryland||Memorial Stadium||1994–1995|
|Birmingham Barracudas||Birmingham, Alabama||Legion Field||1995|
|Las Vegas Posse||Las Vegas, Nevada||Sam Boyd Stadium||1994|
|Memphis Mad Dogs||Memphis, Tennessee||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||1995|
|Ottawa Renegades||Ottawa, Ontario||Frank Clair Stadium||2002–2005|
|Ottawa Rough Riders||Ottawa, Ontario||Frank Clair Stadium||1876–1996|
|Sacramento Gold Miners||Sacramento, California||Hornet Stadium||1993–1994|
|San Antonio Texans||San Antonio, Texas||Alamodome||1995|
|Shreveport Pirates||Shreveport, Louisiana||Independence Stadium||1994–1995|
Timeline of teams
|Team||City||Planned Debut||Result of proposal|
|Atlantic Schooners||Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia||1984||Dissolved due to lack of stadium.|
|San Antonio Texans||San Antonio, Texas||1993||Folded before beginning play when owner ran out of money.|
|Miami Manatees||Miami, Florida||1996||Dissolved due to end of US operations |
- ^ The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were created in 1950 as a merger of the Hamilton Tigers (founded 1869 as the Hamilton Foot Ball Club, and merged with the Hamilton Alerts in 1914) and the Hamilton Flying Wildcats. Ivor Wynne Stadium is slated for closure in 2012, to be replaced by Tim Hortons Field in 2014; the Tiger-Cats are playing at the University of Guelph for the 2013 season.
- ^ The Alouettes' main home field is Molson Stadium. In recent years, they also play their final regular season home game and any home playoff games at Olympic Stadium.
- ^ The CFL considers the current Montreal Alouettes franchise (founded in 1994 as the Baltimore Stallions, moved to Montreal and renamed the Montreal Alouettes in 1996) to be a continuation of the original Montreal Alouettes (founded 1946, played in the CFL 1958–1981) and Montreal Concordes (founded 1982, renamed the Montreal Alouettes in 1986, folded just before the 1987 season). However this does not include the Montreal Football Club that was formed in 1872, and joined the IRFU in 1907–1915, and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers, who played in the IRFU during the 1930s and 40's, winning the Grey Cup in 1931.
- ^ Created by a merger of the Winnipegs (whose roots go back to 1879) and the St. John's team on June 10, 1930, and become known as the "Winnipeg Pegs" before changing to the current name, Blue Bombers, in 1936.
- ^ Not related to the Vancouver Grizzlies, who played one season in 1941.
- ^ Roots go back to the Calgary Rugby Foot-ball Club, which formed in 1909.
- ^ While football in Edmonton was first played in 1890, the Edmonton Eskimos recognize their first season in 1949. This was further evidenced by the "60 seasons" decals worn on their helmets during the 2008 season.
- ^ Became Saskatchewan Roughriders officially in 1950, after the team became the only pro football team left in the province in 1948.
- ^ The San Antonio Texans formed in 1993 folded before playing a game. The 1995 Texans team listed here were the former Sacramento Gold Miners, who moved to San Antonio in 1995.
- ^ Percival Molson Memorial Stadium Phase II construction was completed in 2010, adding 5,000 seats, in the northwest corner and east grandstand.
- ^ The Miami Manatees were a proposed team that was abandoned before the 1996 season, after an exhibition game between Birmingham and Baltimore in Miami was poorly attended.
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