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CFL to Consider Four Downs in Offseason

The CFL is considering one of its biggest rule changes in league history with how many downs they will have.

TSN’s Dave Naylor and Farhan Lalji are reporting that the league will be looking over potential rule changes in the upcoming offseason. One rule change that will be considered is whether to move from three downs to four downs.

This is one of many rules the league is looking into as they look for ways to improve the game. The CFL just made an agreement with Genius Sports Limited, a data and technology company to have an equity stake in the league’s revenue to help drive a new audience to the league. Scoring has been down since 2017 and the league is looking at alternatives to improving the league including potentially four downs.

Three downs have been a staple to the CFL since the league first started as far back as the late 1890s. It’s been one of the defining traits to the league that has separated itself from the NFL. Despite the growing popularity of the NFL in Canada, CFL fans still enjoy the rule differences between Canada and United States rules.

When the CFL was considering working with the XFL earlier in the year, a debate ensued between fans as to whether they would be open to the CFL moving to a four-down system. The majority of CFL fans showed their support to keeping three downs to continue the century-long tradition of three downs.

There’s no doubt this will be a highly talked about subject among the die-hard CFL fans. While it may seem unlikely the league will make a drastic change like that, fans should be prepared for changes to occur in the upcoming seasons. Bringing in a new audience can only strengthen the league for the future.

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Anthony Miller is a credential reporter and writer for XFL NewsHub. Anthony writes about the NFL, specifically the Philadelphia Eagles. He's adding CFL Writer to his title as well. Follow Anthony on Twitter @ByAnthonyMiller.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Matt

    December 12, 2021 at 6:35 am

    A real dumb move what next shrink the field.The CFL is the oldest and
    closest to its roots(rugby) it’s not the game when will these guys get it through there heads its money they have to figure out how to generate it our media is killing this sport in not promoting it I hear every NFL score and then a little blurb at the end about a CFL score(of the team the station is broad casting from)no others

    • BMF

      December 21, 2021 at 10:58 pm

      4 downs. Big fat guys can push their way through 10 yards. No finesse, no difficulty. our game uses tactics, small fast runners, quick changeovers. Please dont change to 4. Nfl is baby whiney football. CFL – The field is too big, there are too many men, they are running around too much, we need more tries – make it easier for americans to watch cause its all about the score. Bah humbug

  2. Lou Bruno

    December 12, 2021 at 11:10 am

    The number of downs is not the issue with the CFL attracting young fans. It needs to find its purpose in the sports world regarding consumers and implement strategies to realize that purpose. In other words, the league needs to define their “raison d’etre” and build around that. The declining interest has been due to, in part, competing with the NFL and polarizing fans in the process. We all know that this has been a losing battle so what is going to four downs going to achieve? So purpose is key – the league needs to answer “why have a CFL in the market”? The league hasn’t communicated this to fans and it has not articulated their strategies around this.

    • Bob fry

      December 12, 2021 at 6:14 pm

      A CFL Fan I agree go to 4 down ball, but get rid of the cow pasture for the end zone, go to the USA end zones, and goal post. Will make for a better game.

      • Sporty

        December 17, 2021 at 10:37 pm

        No.

    • Evan

      December 12, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      Let’s move away from 3 & out, kick. More offence is good for the fans. NHL made changes to create more scoring as did the sport of curling.

    • Denis St Guinefort

      March 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

      It is a sad perspective, however, if a drastic change doesn’t happen, we might end up with no league at all. Many timely circumstances explain the projected measures. Foremost, the largest cities in the country, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver will certainly will not have a team in a not too distant future if everything remains the same. Without these teams, sponsors will abandon the league, which implies very little TV coverage. There’s also the very problem of attracting new and younger fans. Unless I’m wrong, the ones interested in Football (not footbol which they love as well as basketball) seems to gravitate to the NFL. As fans such as myself who grew up in the fifties, sixties, and even seventies, our declining number (for obvious reason) doesn’t help much. Of course, we all love the game as it is. However, emotions aside, we might find ourselves next to T-Rexes in some museum if nothing is done. I mean T-Rexes sporting our favourite team colours and helmets.

      There are some positive points supporting the changes, though I still much prefer the Canadian version. More localities South of the border might find interest in acquiring a team. Many locations aren’t big enough to ever join the NFL, though a CFL franchise would work quite well if, and only if, proper market research is done in each possible case. It would also mean more cash for the league, new sponsors possibilities, even better TV deals in the US.

      OK, I’m getting reading for the bombs flying my way,

  3. Ian

    December 12, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    NEVER would support 4 down CFL.

  4. Gary Thomas Smith

    December 12, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    HELLO, well if this hasn’t been talked about “ad naseum”, it would make so much more sense to have a four down system in the CFL than we have in our game now. The way it is now, we have 2 downs and kick, 2 downs and kick, and this goes on like this throughout the games – really boring stuff. Let’s see some more offense plays with an extra down. We have so much kicking aways, or trying for field goals, it takes away from the exciting part of the game. We as fans, want to see more struggling to get touchdowns, and it would open up the game more. Our field is larger than in the NFL’s and it would give the quarterbacks more opportunities to open up the game. Let’s give it a try, even if it is only tried out on exhibition games to start with. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, it certainly something to consider, not just sit back and wonder.

    • Sporty

      December 17, 2021 at 10:39 pm

      No

  5. Robert Hoare

    December 12, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    If you want to lose the CFL start playing with the rules. The game is exciting, it’s unique and leave it that way
    I can’t believe that buffoon Ambroise is still commissioner, he’s hurting the league.
    If you want to improve pay higher salaries to attract more talent and hold on to our good players.
    P.s. lower the price of beer

    • Sporty

      December 17, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      If you don’t want to pay for the beervhow do you think the salaries will rise? Higher ticket prices?

  6. Cam

    December 12, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    I feel that the “over abundance “ of commercials is the biggest reason that fan support has diminished. As bad as it is watching on television it is far worse watching the players stand around waiting for the commercial break to end. Eg touchdown, commercial, point after, commercial, kickoff return, more commercials. I understand r that commercials are a necessity but now a 60 minute game takes over 180 minutes! What young person would sit through that ?

    • Roger Coley

      December 30, 2021 at 9:25 am

      NFL games are over 180 minutes, and young people sit through those – especially those in fantasy leagues. I’m kind of torn on whether to stick with 3 downs or go to 4. I read the Twitter thread that talked about this issue where one person mentioned that teams are putting the majority of imports on defence. If this is the case, then I could see where teams are exploiting the import rules to create an unfair competitive disadvantage. Perhaps the league should address this by requiring teams to have an equal number of imports on offence and defence.

      I’d be willing to give 4 down football a try, but that would be the only change. All of this other talk about shrinking the field, moving the goalposts, eliminating the single point is a non-starter for me. If you want American pro football, watch the NFL.

  7. Lloyd Loveday

    December 12, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    38million Canadians. 2.8 million have a cable subscription to watch the game, almost all odpf those are people over 60. Dump TSN and put the game back on CBC and CTV and free streaming. That alone expose 35.2 million more and younger people to the game. the boring NFL already has four downs the CFL doing the exact same thing will just make it a more boring bush league that no one will want to watch or pay to see

  8. Kenner

    December 13, 2021 at 12:49 am

    Please go to 4-down football. The sustained drive on offence and clock management involved make for major league football where players get payed more. This will attract better talent and better sponsors.

  9. David Tress

    December 13, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    Going to 4 downs would be okay if they keep the rest of the Canadian rules, including 12 men, the large field, the waggle and the rouge. The fair catch is the most boring rule there is.

  10. BMN

    December 13, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    How many people that you’ve talked to about the CFL that didn’t watch it listed the number of downs as the reason?

    If the concern is not enough offense, I’d suggest that I’d sooner reduce the number of yards needed for a first down than I would turn to “fixing” the three down rule.

    If anything, the abundance of special teams play created by three downs is part of why Canadian football is the sport that it is, and has more of a “gridiron with some rugby” feel to it. Being a higher-scoring American gridiron game doesn’t add a single viewer, it’s still an inferior NFL at that point. If the league needed to change any rules, I’d rather they do even more to open up the special teams plays that tinker with three downs or rouges, etc.

  11. Jeff

    December 14, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    There had better never ever be a change to 4 downs!!! We’re the CFL! Not NFL!!

  12. SteveM

    December 15, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve been watching the CFL and the NFL since the late 60s (I’m 61 now). I enjoy both games, but lately the CFL game has become sloppier, with more dropped passes, fumbles, poor tackling… I could go on. The NFL is no longer the ‘run-run-pass’ league it was decades ago. It’s sad to say, but I find the NFL game much more exciting than the CFL game. There’s just about as much passing, and of course the talent level is higher. I enjoy the slowly-building tension as the trailing team marches down the field to either tie or win the game. In the CFL, it’s 2-plays-and-out too often, and there’s too much emphasis on the kicking game (in my opinion). I’d rather see a receiver catch a winning pass, or a running back break one a little more often, rather than watch a punt. The only plays that I prefer in the CFL over the NFL is the punt return (no far catches allowed!), and kickoffs (in the NFL, 95% are not returned). The ‘3rd and one’ situation in the CFL doesn’t work for me (after Bart Starr’s sneak in the 1967 Ice Bowl, I’ve had my fill of QB sneaks). Also, the waggle is kind of silly. I’d say on one of every two plays there’s at least one receiver who’s already a couple of yards past the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Finally, in the CFL, the QBs are forced to run too often. That’s why it’s rare to see one last longer than 7 or 8 years as a starter in the league.

    I’d be happy if the CFL went to four downs, but kept the 110 yd. long and 65 yd wide field (w/ 12 players). I’d prefer to see the uprights in the back of the endzone, which should be 15 yards deep, max. Last 2 items: get the virtual ads off the field, and if sponsor logos are going to stay on uniforms, have the logo itself stitched in (i.e. no patch), so that it’s a bit more discreet and integrates into the uniform better. I know it’s all about the money, but they’ll just have to look at other ways of generating revenue.

    Just the thoughts of a CFL fan of over 50 yrs.

    • SteveM

      December 15, 2021 at 3:29 pm

      “Fair” catch.

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