Canadian Failing League?
Are the Argos just the tip of the iceberg for the CFL?
Author: john loeppky – contributor
Coming off a league-shaking collective bargaining agreement negotiation, the CFL has its fair share of issues. While the Western Division’s mammoth advantage over their eastern counterparts is abundantly obvious, there are a number of other issues that have impacted the league over the last few years — the Rider’s record profit notwithstanding.
For starters, the team that currently resides in the biggest market in Canada, the Toronto Argonauts, is struggling in all areas. Some personal accounts were published this season, with the help of TSN, which shed light on the working conditions that the team faces. These problems stem largely from a lack of quality practice facilities that has only recently been (somewhat) rectified and a front office that continues to lose (and not replace) staff members. I haven’t even mentioned the weirdest part of the Toronto debacle yet. Are you ready for this? The owner of the Argos also owns the team that employs every former Rider that was any good at booting the ball, the BC Lions. In a nine-team league, David Braley owns two of them. That the CFL’s solution is to schedule the two squads’ games early in the season — so as to avoid the likelihood of massive playoff implications — seems to be at once laughable and distinctly Canadian. With the team’s Rogers Centre lease expiring in 2017, it remains to be seen whether Braley can secure BMO Field as their principal venue, his current objective. An under-performing team, no market share, and the uncertainty of a field to play on, does not make a sound business plan.
As for the on-field product, the overall putridness of the East Division has been widely reported. Even after the teams’ successes this past weekend, the division’s record stands at an abysmal 13-33. Of those thirteen wins, just two have come on the road. If the divisional alignments did not exist (as some in the armchair quarterback community have been clamouring for years) then the top team in the East, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, would have an immense hill to climb even to fight for the fourth spot, just so that they could crossover back into the East.
More worrying than even the ugliest of Ricky Ray interceptions or field goal misses, is the prospect of litigation. Former CFL receiver Arland Bruce is suing the league for what he alleges was the mishandling of a concussion he suffered during his playing career. If Bruce were to succeed (there are no indications as to how this case will turn out), a big precedent could be set. The CFL, unlike its big brother down south, would not be able to handle a lawsuit of the magnitude that the NFL just weathered.
On the bright side, even with the inequality that is present within the league, with new television money, an owners-friendly collective bargaining agreement, and an on-field product that is (mostly) entertaining, there is hope on the horizon that it won’t become known as the Canadian Failing League. At least, not yet.