CFL Canadian Ratio a Huge Topic of Contention

CFL Ratio

Who said the off-season has to be boring? Five weeks removed from free agency and still seven weeks out from the draft there was a lull in major CFL news. That is until Justin Dunk of 3DownNation released an explosive piece detailing how the CFL and CFLPA appear to both be in agreement to reduce the CFL Canadian ratio of starters from seven to five. There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s start with what the ratio actually is and accomplishes.

What’s the ratio?

As per CFL’s official website, the ratio requires teams they have a maximum of 44 players, three of which are quarterbacks. Of the other 41, not more than 20 may be International players. Now, of those 24 starters on the active game-day rosters, seven starters on both offence and defence must be Nationals.

Let’s go back one more step, what’s a National? Again, as per, a National is defined as the following:

The following Players shall be classified as National Players (formerly non-import):
(a)    Canadian citizens at the time of signing of the Player’s first contract;
(b)    A Player classified as a non-import prior to May 31st, 2014;  OR
(c)    A Player who was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of five (5) years prior to attaining the age of eighteen (18) years.

A Player is classified as an International Player (formerly import) if the Player is one other than one referred to in the definition of a National Player (formerly non-import).

Great, now that we have that understood, let’s explore the purpose of the ratio. Caution: There will be a lot of embedded tweets in this article. I’ve warned you.

Ratio Purpose

The purpose of the ratio is to incentivize coaches and general managers to actively keep Canadians in the game. It’s no secret the disadvantages that Canadian football players have in terms of the resources and programs they come up through compared to their American counterparts.

Furthermore, an American coaching staff would be more inclined to start Americans over Canadians without as much as giving them a shot at a starting position.

Now there are two sides to this argument, which we’ll get to in a minute, but the general purpose is to at least give Canadians a shot to prove that they belong.

The Argument for the Ratio

The general consensus among supporters of the ratio is that without it, American coaches wouldn’t give so much as a second look to Canadian players. Whether this is an unfair assumption or not, the ratio is designed to at the minimum to give Canadians a shot.

And with that in mind, that’s essentially why the ratio exists. There is no shortage of athletes available in Canada. It’s the resources that they have at their disposal that causes such a large discrepancy.

If the CFL were to remove the ratio rule altogether (which hasn’t been suggested by the CFL or CFLPA) there would be shockwaves felt down to the grassroots level that in some cases already struggle with financial support from schools and their respective communities.

The Argument against the Ratio

A majority of the tweets I saw from the other perspective weren’t calling for a complete abolishment of the ratio. At least from the player’s perspectives anyways. Brandon Banks’ argument essentially encapsulated how many International players feel. (Before Ricky Foley and Duron Carter descended into a back and forth spat).

I warned you about the embedded tweets, right? Those against the ratio essentially want “the best players to play” and not have starting positions determined by passport. The only problem with this, as mentioned under the ratio purpose header,  by eliminating the ratio, what would incline American coaches to scout Canadian talent? Give them a chance to make the team? A starting position?

This trickles down into the grassroots level, would it rid of the incentivization for a young Canadian football player to take up football in the first place? Or pursue it past high school? As for the CFL, does it become an NFL feeder system at that point? Another AAF or XFL? These could all be exaggerations, but they’re not outside the realm of possibilities.

Reality Check

The ratio isn’t going anywhere. The debate got carried away on Twitter when all that was proposed was a reduction from seven to five Nationals starters. Some worried that it would set a precedent and that number would work its way down to zero eventually. It’s hard to see that happening. Another factor to keep in mind is the looming 10th team soon to appear on the east coast. If National talent is spread thin at the moment (or so we’ve been told), would a reduction of the ratio improve the product?

All valid questions and concerns. And while it was nice to see CFL players, media and regular joe’s like myself debating and creating dialogue around the situation, it’s unfortunate it had to be hijacked and turned personal by a select few.

The Last Word

At the end of the day, the ratio is good for the CFL. Some tweaks may be needed (like the pay scale Brandon Bank mentioned) but the quality of the CFL hasn’t suffered because Canadians are required a starting spot at seven positions.

Anyways, buckle up. We’re only a week and some change into CBA negotiations, with many more meetings to go.

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