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“Canadian Sentiments Towards CFL Rule Changes” – A Survey that Misses the Mark

Leger Marketing Inc. released a survey on January 13th, 2022 where they measured “Canadians’ Level of Support of the CFL and whether switching to American rules would increase or decrease fandom.” Much emotion has erupted with CFL fans across social media as the online survey of only 1503 participants has cast a dark cloud over the League’s traditions, demographics, and future.

TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor responded to this survey on Twitter with:

“Interesting … most of this falls in line with that our eyes/ears tells us. Btw … I believe any adaptation to four downs would include a lot of rules not consistent with American football.”

TSNs Dave Naylor on Twitter on 14 January 2022.

Like most fans, I was shocked when CFL Commissioner, Randy Ambrosie suggested that perhaps some rule changes should be looked at to further grow the game. Elks Chair, Ian Murray, also suggested that the demographics of the fans needs to grow. He had earlier enraged fans by suggesting that supporters of the games were typically old, white males. He later released a statement clarifying his comments. Now, I don’t disagree that the CFL needs to expand their demographics. What I disagree with is a destructive commentary about changing the rules and traditions of our game. If I wanted to watch an NFL style game, I’d just watch the NFL (which I do as well).

1503 Randomly Survey Canadians

The Leger survey which was conducted online from 25-27 December 2021, sampled adults evenly across Canada. Apparently, the views of a small sample of Canadians can be used to make sweeping recommendations about the views of fans. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. How about we start with surveying the season ticket holders across Canada. You need to look internally before externally to better influence positive change and growth.

56% of fans have no interest in the CFL at all? Ok, fine. No matter what the CFL does with marketing, rules, etc…these 56% are never watching football anyways. So now we are down to 661 randomly surveyed Canadians.

Leger Survey Insights

Excerpt from the Leger Report on Canadians’ Sentiments Towards CFL Rule Changes, 13 January 2022

Insight #1 – Agree

Fans in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are outstanding. The connection between the league, its players, and the game is extremely strong. Bomber and Rider fans are passionate and committed to their teams. How do we transfer their enthusiasm throughout the country? Not by changing rules. Both cities have brand new CFL stadiums, successful teams, and great marketing. Young and old fans flock to the games and to their TVs to watch. It’s built into the fabric of these proud communities. I’d argue that the survey poorly represents Quebec’s passion for football. The Province of Quebec has excellent CIS and High School football and fans love the game.

Insight #2 – Disagree

The survey didn’t collect data from actual CFL fans. It made weak assumptions that the biggest fans were in the minority of Canadians. A sweeping conclusion that rule changes would improve demographics is supported by weak data. I believe that die-hard fans would walk away if the rules dramatically changed. I know that this fan would walk. My children who attend games with me, enjoy my Labour Day BBQ, and go on CFL road trips would be future fans removed from the culture of the CFL. Are those “casual fans” or “non-fans” who support rule changes going to step up and fill the gap of the season ticket holders that left? My son, who is 15, will simply tune his attention more to the NFL, NHL, and NBA.

Insight #3 – Ya, No Doubt

See my response to insight #2. A tonne of research is needed. Remember, any dramatic rule change would have second and third order effects.

Insight #4 – Disagree

This whole idea that the game is broken and it needs sweeping rule changes is quite disturbing. The issue with the CFL and its demographics is purely marketing. The Edmonton Elks this year have not charged me for my children’s season tickets (I sit in the nose bleeds). Taking families to games needs to be fun, cost-effective, and welcoming. I am thrilled that the Elks are taking steps to allow season ticket holders in the lower tier ticket categories to bring their children for free. This needs to happen league wide. FILL THE SEATS at all costs. When a stadium is full, it creates demand. People want to attend events when tickets are hard to get.

Do teams lose money by giving away free tickets to kids? Nope. I spend more money at a game if I bring my kids. I buy them food, merchandise, transportation, etc. They learn the culture of the game and they love the event. Isn’t that where all of us “old males” started? Attending the games with our families? Being dumped in the Knothole Gang?

Young adults in their early 20s, love to party. Keep embracing the party atmosphere of a live CFL game. Allow and encourage tailgating at all CFL venues. Tailgating seems to be a reason why Canadians love going to NFL games, people love the experience. Post-game concerts? Why not. Add something more to CFL events, although please never bring Hanson back to play at half-time.

My kids enjoying a game at Commonwealth Stadium in 2019

Conclusion

Buy your tickets. Go to the game. Bring your friend, your family, and have fun. We need to stand up for our game and continue to push our teams and league to enhance their marketing and in-game experiences for all. Rule changes do not solve that.

Darrell is a life-long CFL fan who is passionate about the 3 Down game. He has traveled to 17 different Grey Cup festivals and is a proud season ticket holder and Edmonton Elks fan.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Abboy1713

    January 14, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    If I wanted to watch 4 down fooball I’d watch the NFL….enough said

    • Darrell Paquette

      January 14, 2022 at 3:06 pm

      Absolutely!

  2. David Tress

    January 15, 2022 at 6:41 am

    You could still have the Canadian game with four downs. You keep 12 men, the larger field, the rouge, no fair catch. With four downs we’d have a bit more scoring and less punting. That would be better.

    • Rich A Salzer

      January 15, 2022 at 1:59 pm

      Totally wrong. 4 down football is of the devil.

      • Paul Barham

        January 16, 2022 at 1:21 am

        I agree. Marketing and in-game experience. And less expensive ticket deals, like what the Elks are doing. The idea have more bums in the seats. In Toronto, the Argos could use the TTC for marketing or the large electronic billboards along the 400 hwys. Get every home game in the public eye(!) with cheap ticket deals and real halftime entertainment that would appeal to the younger crowd. I couldn’t begin to suggest who but there’s oodles of talented musicians who could play for 10-15 minutes

  3. Paul Barham

    January 16, 2022 at 1:21 am

    I agree. Marketing and in-game experience. And less expensive ticket deals, like what the Elks are doing. The idea have more bums in the seats. In Toronto, the Argos could use the TTC for marketing or the large electronic billboards along the 400 hwys. Get every home game in the public eye(!) with cheap ticket deals and real halftime entertainment that would appeal to the younger crowd. I couldn’t begin to suggest who but there’s oodles of talented musicians who could play for 10-15 minutes

  4. Marty

    January 16, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Some good thoughts. The in-stadium experience is the most important thing to fix (well and to replace the stadium in Calgary)…if you have fun, you go again. CFL and the teams need to specifically market to people in their late teens, 20s,and 30s and create spaces at games (pubs or something more unique ideally) where is appeals to those folks.

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