Anytime change is being discussed, there will always be skepticism of messing with tradition. This is the challenge the CFL currently faces with the news that they are in talks with the XFL “to identify opportunities for the leagues to collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football.”
The buzz generated from the announcement wasn’t a surprise given Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is on one side of the talks. Look no further than this tweet from the Toronto Argonauts.
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It has been made known that the CFL has been going through tough times with COVID-19 highlighting the financial stress on the league. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been adamant about finding alternative ways to generate revenue and it’s no surprise that he sees the new XFL ownership group as an ideal partner to accomplish that.
The obvious concern among fans and those who cover the CFL is whether this is the beginning of the end for three-down football? If both leagues decide to merge, will a Grey Cup be awarded, is the Canadian ratio on its way out and what other changes could come?
It’s clear that the CFL thrives in markets where the team is the main attraction and in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, there is a struggle to drive home that same passion for the game. Many would agree that the league would certainly be in a better position if the Argos, Lions and Alouettes were able to get more fans in the stands.
Toronto Argonauts: CFL, XFL partnership leaves more questions than answers
Reading the announcements made by the CFL and XFL then listening to Ambrosie make the rounds on several media stations and talking to reporters, there is a lot of room being left for interpretation.
If both leagues are discussing a merger, will the CFL fight to keep the unique parts of its game? How much of the rules, field configuration and scoring system interests the XFL owners? It’s hard to say.
At this stage, it’s anyone’s guess as to where this all ends up. The fact that this announcement was made while many are still wondering what the status for the 2021 season is.
Speaking to Danny Austin of the Calgary Sun, Ambrosie said there likely won’t be any updates for the next while.
"“We are singularly focused to get our plans (in place) to play a 2021 season, so I would argue that I’d say for the next little while this will be an incredibly interesting conversation to follow,” Ambrosie said. “Our fans and stakeholders will all have a chance to share ideas. I’m quite sure there will be grand and very fruitful debates on various issues that will surface, but I wouldn’t expect that we will have a lot to say for at least a period of time. When we have something meaningful we will absolutely communicate it.”"
To see the players express their confusion about this type of announcement when they are focusing on the upcoming season isn’t surprising. It seems like the league and players’ association haven’t been able to establish the type of communication that you’d expect and that’s obviously something that still needs to change.
If the CFL has the ambition to grow the game, you have to think the players will need to be more in the loop than they have been. The fans certainly hope that they won’t be blindsided by any significant changes being made considering the initial announcement caught many off guard.
What are your thoughts on the discussions between the CFL and XFL? Are you concerned about what this means for the future of the game in Canada? Let us know in the comments below.