The Canadian Football League appears ready to handle to the challenges of tougher economic times across the country and around the world.
That was one of the key messages conveyed by Mark Cohon on Friday as part of the CFL commissioner's annual state of the union news conference in Montreal.
"We are not immune to the economic downturn in this country and around the world, but we feel we are well positioned when compared to other leagues," he told reporters. "We have good ties to the community and are affordable. We are aggressive with our fan base and those companies that are aggressive during down times are more successful."
Part of the league's aggressive approach with fans will be marketing an inexpensive, home-grown entertainment option that has attracted more than two million fans through the turnstiles for a seventh year in a row.
The commissioner's question and answer session also brought up the annual laundry list of league concerns, including the possibility of expansion and the National Football League's presence in Toronto.
A 'Blue Ribbon' team of Jeff Hunt, John Ruddy, Roger Greenberg and William Shenkman are already working diligently to bring a CFL team back to Ottawa amid reports that the nation's capital will host the Grey Cup in 2014. "We're hopeful that 2011 will be a time when we can get a franchise back in Ottawa," said Cohon.
The commissioner addressed questions regarding new exposure into markets like Quebec City, Moncton and Halifax, with the possibility of neutral site regular season games in one of those cities provided that a suitable stadium is available. The city of Moncton already has a track and field stadium in the works which could potentially host a game in the near future.
"I do believe there are opportunities to expand our reach into those markets," said Cohon. "That (facility) has the ability to expand up to 20,000 (seats), so we are looking at an opportunity in 2010."
With the Toronto Argonauts out of the postseason and the Buffalo Bills set to play their first regular season at the Rogers Centre on Dec. 6, Cohon chose not to discuss the presence of the NFL on the CFL's biggest weekend.
"One season does not make a league," he said. "Three quarters of a million people watched the Labour day Classic, with more than a quarter of that number from the GTA."
Other points from the commissioner's address included:
- A continuation of the CFL's Retro program, including the possibility of opening next season on Canada Day.
- Creating a league command centre for officiating so all decisions can be made from Toronto.
- New in-game standards to protecting quarterbacks. At season's end the CFL will meet with club GMs and coaches and discuss how this can be further improved.
- A drug-testing policy - which already has a first draft - that, with the support of the CFL Players' Association, will be part of the new collective bargaining agreement in 2010.
- Talking to the CIS about co-ordinating efforts with the two title games being played in the same city.
- The league will decide shortly what the cap will be in 2009 but doubts it will increase from its present level of $4.2 million.