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Will the CFL Expand Internationally like the NFL?

On February 12, 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL’s Super Bowl Championship Game. The Chiefs joined the Toronto Argonauts in bringing home the latest pro football silverware. The Argonauts, who defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on November 21, took home their 18th Grey Cup win—and prevented the Blue Bombers from becoming the first team to win three championships in a row.

Currently, the NFL and CFL are both in the offseason. It’s a popular time for NFL fans, in particular, to take a look at NFL odds for the upcoming season and place a futures bet. Though it’s hard to predict outcomes so far out, the Kansas City Chiefs were one of last year’s favorites—and they’ve stayed at the top of the list in terms of Super Bowl predictions.

In the CFL, meanwhile, analysts have listed the Blue Bombers as their favorite, followed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the British Columbia Lions. The Argonauts, surprisingly, are listed behind the Lions. As the preseason awaits, many fans are looking elsewhere for their football entertainment.

The US now has two other leagues for fans to follow: the spring’s XFL and the summer’s USFL. However, not all football fans are keeping an eye on North American leagues. Instead, some CFL fans are wondering if the league will look to jump abroad like the NFL is currently doing.

NFL Targeting Expansion

Roger Goodell, the NFL’s current commissioner, is likely in his final run as the league’s leader. Though he received another round of approvals from the NFL’s franchise owners, it’s unlikely he’ll be selected for another stint given his age. And it seems like Goodell’s sole focus before that day comes is setting the NFL up for international growth.

Already, he’s targeted multiple campaigns to do this. First, the NFL has set up marketing rights for each of its 32 teams. This means that each team was allocated a specific global market, from Brazil to Australia to Germany, in order to build a fanbase. Through media outreach, each franchise is currently able to foster and leverage fans in certain regions.

The idea is to give fans a ‘home team’ to root for—and Goodell is just as focused on giving them a live game to watch. Over the next few years, the NFL will be expanding its International Series schedule. The International Series has been active for years, including in Mexico City, Frankfurt, and London.

Now, however, the International Series will include regular-season games rather than exhibition matches. Though uncertain whether this aggressive push will pay off in the long run, it’s left many CFL fans wondering if there’s a market for the Tiger-Cats or Lions to do the same.

Outlook for the CFL

The CFL faces multiple hurdles in terms of international expansion. The primary two challenges relate to funding and reach. In terms of revenue, the CFL doesn’t make nearly as much as the NFL. Similarly, the league includes only nine teams, which makes it harder to leverage an international presence.

Viewed in these lenses, the answer is a clear no—the CFL will not be moving abroad. However, there’s no reason that the CFL would need to replicate the NFL’s grand plans. In fact, why would it? It’s a different league, catering to a different type of football fan. And it doesn’t need to go as far as Australia or Brazil to expand.

Realistic Goals for an International CFL

As mentioned above, Mexico is one of the NFL’s target markets. That’s because Mexico has its own American football league—and sports fans are developing an increasing passion for the game. So, if the CFL would choose to target international expansion, it already has solid potential in the Mexican market—or even potentially alongside the ELF.

Similarly, the CFL doesn’t need to roll out marketing rights and start shipping teams across the Atlantic for regular season games. It could instead foster a more organic approach to boosting interest, specifically through media rights. Already, the CFL has expanded its live viewership to over 100 countries globally—and enriching that experience for fans outside Canada is a solid place to start.

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Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry is the founder and editor of CFL News Hub. A dedicated and experienced football analyst, he has been providing comprehensive coverage of the sport since 2018.
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