CFL Succeeding In Spite of Poor Management
The Canadian Football League is more popular now than it has ever been.
Its successes however, come in spite of its board of Governors (AKA the team owners) who have seemingly done everything possible to undermine the League’s reputation and integrity.
This is a league whose owners have collectively fumbled and stumbled their way to success. This is an ownership group that has had five different Commissioners since 2000. This is a professional organization that had allowed one of its franchises to draft a player who had died in a car accident 5 months previous. This is the league that allowed Lonie Glieberman, known for dating cheerleaders and holding sleazy game-day Mardi-Gras promotions, to purchase the Ottawa franchise – twice! This is the CANADIAN Football league that decided, in their infamous wisdom, to expand to the United States only to have 4 out of 5 new teams fail within their first two years of operation (the fifth team, the Baltimore Allouettes were later moved to Montreal).
The latest indiscretion involves BC Lions owner David Braley. Reports have recently surfaced that Braley loaned the Toronto Argos owners in excess of $1 million over the past several years without anyone, including the League Board of Governors, knowing about it. While no one is accusing Braley of impropriety, it has created a perception of ‘mal-intent’ and is another black mark on the league.
Even with the continuing gaffes, the upcoming 2009 CFL season is expected to be one of the League’s most successful. That success has more to do with exclusive television rights owner TSN however, than anyone or anything else. TSN has invested an unprecedented amount of money and support for the CFL with a sweeping marketing campaign utilizing print, radio, outdoor advertising along with original on-air promotions seen across the CTV/Globe Media family. Its game day broadcasts with commentary from the ex-player studio panel is also very impressive. TSN has made the CFL hip for Canadians.
In 2008, CFL attendance topped two million people, and averaged more than 28,000 fans per regular season game – matching the league’s pinnacle in the early eighties. Television ratings have also been impressive. According to TSN, national viewer-ship increased by 6%; last year’s viewing average was 393,000. In addition, the 2008 Grey Cup game in Montreal, was played in front of 66,803 fans, the second largest live audience in the League’s history, and was watched on television by 3.65 million Canadians. Comparatively, 3.5 million Canadians watched Game 7 of the recent Stanley Cup Finals on CBC.
Despite years of ownership futility, the CFL is on top of the sporting landscape in Canada.