CFL Should Expand to Quebec City First

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If the Canadian Football League wants to build its brand, than it should bet big on Quebec City.

Now of course you’ll hear the usual doubters from “nobody there follows it” to “they only care about bringing back the Nordiques” and of course the classic “What about Moncton? Or the United States?” The league has tried all of it and failed miserably.

Halifax? The USA?

The maritimes won’t work outside of Halifax. Longtime Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment head honcho Richard Peddie didn’t triple the value of that superpower in under a decade without knowing a thing or two. He once said, “Small will go to big, but big won’t go to small.” And he’s right. Halifax sees itself as the epicentre of Atlantic Canada and will not support another pro sports team in that region without its own. They tried that in 1984 with the Atlantic Schooners. Llocal government made it clear it had no interest in building a stadium and that has yet to change. For those reasons, Halifax, Moncton and the maritimes remain a dead end.

U.S. Expansion? Nope. Each team relies on a five million dollar a year cash injection from TSN thanks to its record-setting contract extended through 2021 as Bell Media’s sportscasting empire hangs on for dear life while viewers flock to Rogers to see the Blue Jays and Hockey Night in Canada in record numbers. Bell also lost its fight with the CRTC over its monopoly on the Canadian viewer during the Super Bowl which used to force us to miss the classic American commercials in favor of the boring, generic Canadian ones. TSN will not shell out five million bucks to an American team that won’t boost viewership north of the border. And good luck finding a local TV affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana willing to do that! Not to mention the import ratio headaches it would create.

Why Quebec City?

For starters, it’s the biggest unserved media market in the country with no CFL representation and has a bigger population base of 806,400 per Wikipedia’s estimate in 2015 than Winnipeg (736,400 per that city’s latest forecast for 2017) representing the eighth largest TV market in Canada ahead of current CFL markets Winnipeg, Hamilton and Regina. And it’s smack dab in the middle of four million francophone Quebeckers who make up rural Quebec and would now have its own team to follow.

League revenues are becoming more and more tied to broadcast revenues than ever before. In order to make expansion make sense, you need to grow the pie by at least ten percent to convince league governors to split it 10 ways instead of nine. That’s a big pool of untapped viewers right there. And then there’s the rivalry it would create with Les Alouettes.

Local university powerhouse Laval Rouge et Or have shown the ability to regularly draw more than 13,000 fans. This is a remarkable feat when you consider their home stadium seats only 12,750. You’ll never convince this three-down junkie that a CFL team wouldn’t draw a whole lot more than that.

Scheduling Nightmares

A nine-team league creates all kinds of scheduling nightmares for a league balancing bye weeks with an 18-game schedule by adding three extra weeks. Adding a tenth franchise to even out the divisions at five apiece makes perfect sense and the league knows it. It would add a lot of credibility to a brand which desperately needs to penetrate this country in order to succeed and stabilize.

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie is talking a good game about Halifax and he’s the first commish in a generation smart enough to understand the responsibility of creating interest in outside markets to grow the game and command something for expansion fees to reward the league’s existing owners/franchises.

But he’s wrong to think Halifax is the best place to start. It should be Quebec City.

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