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Friday, November 23, 2012

COHON'S STATE OF THE LEAGUE

TORONTO - Southern Ontario remains a challenge for the CFL, but commissioner Mark Cohon says the league will provide financial assistance to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next season while their new stadium is built.

Cohon said Friday during his annual state-of-the-league address three-quarters of the CFL's teams (six of eight) are breaking even or making money. Cohon didn't provide specifics but said Hamilton and the Toronto Argonauts remain works in progress.

"We know we have work here in southern Ontario,'' he said. "But I'm confident as we look to the future for a new television deal, the new stadium in Hamilton and the progress we're making here in Toronto that I'd say in a few years that number will increase.''

Last year, Toronto and Hamilton split $1 million from the CFL to grow grassroots football in southern Ontario.

Next month, venerable Ivor Wynne Stadium will be demolished and replaced with a 24,000-seat, state-of-the-art facility. The Ticats have reached an agreement to play most of next year's ``home'' games at the University of Guelph before moving into the new venue in 2014.

The yet-unnamed new stadium will stage the 2015 Pam An Games soccer competition. Cohon said CFL officials haven't decided how much they'll ante up but have agreed to help Hamilton owner Bob Young cover his costs in 2013.

"What we see now is a bright light at the end of what was once a long tunnel,'' Cohon said. "It's really coming to fruition with that new stadium . . . and new infrastructure and we want to support him in that effort.''

Cohon said staging the 100th Grey Cup has helped Toronto boost attendance, ticket revenue and its season-ticket base, the last by a whopping 50 per cent.

There's no new stadium on the horizon in Toronto, but the Argos have certainly created a buzz by reaching the historic 100th Grey Cup against the Calgary Stampeders. Now the trick remains capitalizing on that momentum after Sunday's big game.

"I think they have a real opportunity to do that,'' Cohon said. "I know in the last week they've already sold hundreds of new season tickets for next year and have the opportunity to become a strong fixture on the sports landscape in Toronto.''

The new Hamilton stadium is following a trend in the CFL. New facilities have been built or planned for Winnipeg, Regina and Ottawa, while existing venues in B.C., Edmonton and Montreal have been refurbished.

A common complaint among Argos fans is Rogers Centre, which seats about 46,000 for football, is too big and lacks atmosphere, especially with the roof closed. Cohon said ideally a 24,000-seat facility would work best in Toronto.

"They're trying to make the Rogers Centre work and you will see Sunday when that stadium is full it's exciting,'' Cohon said. "But longterm I think in terms of looking at professional sports teams you're looking at the size of the Ticats stadium, the size of the stadium in Ottawa, all around 24,000, that's perfect for CFL football . . . and I've talked about a strategy around potentially a new stadium around the Toronto region.''

Cohon provided a positive outlook for the CFL, stating attendance, television ratings, revenues and sponsorships all increased in 2012. He said TV viewership in Ontario of Argos and Ticats games shot up 20 and 11 per cent respectively this year.

Overall, viewership was up six per cent on TSN and four per cent on TSN and RDS combined. The average audience of 728,000 was up 27,000 per game over last year.

That's good news considering the CFL is entering into the final year of its TV deal. TSN and the league can extend the agreement before it expires, but if that doesn't happen it would allow CBC and Rogers Sportsnet, which reportedly both have an interest in CFL games, to enter the bidding.

"TSN has been a great partner,'' Cohon said. "But we also know we're well positioned because there are other entities out there that are extremely interested in our property.''

Cohon isn't in favour of re-opening the NFL option window. Earlier this year, the league eliminated the clause in the collective bargaining agreement allowing CFL option-year players to sign south of the border between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16.

Some CFL officials say that has made recruiting tougher because Americans are reluctant about committing for at least two years in Canada.

"The reason why we did it is because we didn't want to lose a lot of our star players going south,'' he said. "But I would say I have to be convinced to change that and I'm not convinced yet so I think there has to be a discussion on that.''

Despite his glowing report, Cohon said he still has plenty to do over the two-plus seasons that remain on the contract extension he signed last February. Cohon became CFL commissioner in 2007.

"There's a lot of challenges ahead from a television contract to making sure Ottawa opens strong . . . to thinking about Atlantic Canada or Quebec City for a 10th franchise,'' he said. "We've got to get new Canadians into the game, there's video games, fantasy gaming.

"I'm happy where I am, I'm challenged and I hope to be around for a while.''

(CP)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Diverse Canadian cultural demographic landscape change has a lot to do with the current Issues faced by a Canadian Institution such as the CFLeague. Markets such as Toronto and area will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future. Hard work and perseverance.

P in Gtown said...

Sure, that accounts for 2 million Torontonians, but what about the other half? As a resident of the GTA, I can tell you it's because they just don't care because its not the Leafs or the Jays. Toronto has the opinion that they're too big city for the CFL. If the Argos win, bandwagon jumpers will fill the gap for a game or two. The best that the CFL can hope for is a modest stadium with modest, steady crowds and to be happy with that.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why it happened but it seems like the ball was really dropped when the stadium Toronto FC plays out of wasn't designed for CFL football. Small, intimate, outdoor stadium. Seemed like a perfect fit for the Argos.

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 here at Sk. and In full agreement with you P in Gtown. Couldn't have said It any better and to the point.

Anonymous said...

Problem is the location and the Rogers Centre, not a good football stadium. If the Argos played in the GTA either in Mississauga or Durham Region they would do well in attendance.

Gored said...

Put a "consistently" good product on the field (say a team that wins 70% of its games, not 50% or less) and the fans will come. Put a consistently crappy product out there and ... who cares. Even the Saskatchewan Roughriders with their "Rider Nation" had to hold a telethon to save the franchise after years of lousy teams. It's not rocket science: a consistently good football team translate to fan support whereas mediocrity causes apathy.

Parkside said...

2 things at the end that is music to my ears: a 10th franchise, and a video game. Those are two things that would help grow the league. 10 teams would make for a more normal schedule. Evens things up. And I'm not even a gamer, but I would buy a CFL video game. There would be a lot of parents buying it for their kids, etc. Look at the following Madden has. No way that could be matched. But there is a market there.

P in Gtown said...

On the video game front, I'd love to see it. But does anyone really think Little Timmy will be pining for Cuthbert CFL 2016 or Madden come Christmas? We're talking maybe 5% of sales, except in SK. The best we can hope for is a Madden mod.