SBD/November 28, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

CFL Commissioner Says League Is In Good Shape, Though Argos' Success Is Important

Cohon said every metric for CFL is up except for one, as TV ratings are down
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon held his annual state of the league address Friday and said that the league is in "good shape despite reduced television ratings and a troubled southern Ontario market" that will receive a C$1M "cash infusion" next year, according to Terry Bell of the Vancouver PROVINCE. CFL games on TSN and RDS "averaged 701,000 viewers this season, down from 876,000 in 2010." However, Cohon indicated that there were "increases this year in attendance, licensing revenue, traffic on the league website and corporate sponsorship, which is at a record high, up 16 per cent from last season despite an uncertain economy." Cohon: "Every metric is up except for one. Our television ratings are down. There are a few factors. Teams in important markets, Toronto and Saskatchewan struggled this year. Those are two very important markets for us. Here in B.C., one of the biggest television markets in the country, the Lions got off to a 1-6 start. We think that had an impact on our ratings." Cohon added that the CFL BOG approved the C$1M cash infusion for the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to split evenly, with it being "used to grow the game at the grass roots level in the southern Ontario region." Bell reported the Argonauts "remain the big elephant in the CFL room." B.C. Lions Owner David Braley last year bought the Argos, "making him the owner of two of the CFL's eight teams." Some people "see that as a major issue but Cohon said he has no question about Braley's integrity and his commitment to the entire league" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/26).

ARGONAUTS IMPORTANT TO THE LEAGUE: Cohon said having Braley's involvement with the team "is great for the Toronto franchise and the league." Cohon: "Working with him is going to be the most important thing on the league agenda for the next three or four years." He added, "The board is focused on reigniting the passion in southern Ontario with even more focus on Toronto. We have a great opportunity in Hamilton. They'll be getting a new stadium by 2014. I think that's going to re-invigorate the market. We have work to do in Toronto" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/24). In Toronto, Damien Cox noted the C$500,000 for the Argos is the "kind of league support that the previous owners ... asked for but were denied access to." Cox: "But Braley all but runs the CFL, so he gets the help." However, Braley's "ownership of two teams has turned the Argos into a wreck" (TORONTO STAR, 11/25). In Ottawa, Mark Sutcliffe wrote under the header, "CFL Can't Flourish Without Competitive Argos." Cohon "does his best to convince everyone that the CFL is thriving despite the Argos," but that is "like saying life is great at home because you get along with your whole family except your spouse." Sutcliffe: "Unless the league fixes Toronto, all of Cohon's recent progress could unravel. Cohon says David Braley ... is the right man for the job, but it has been almost two years since he took over and not much has happened yet" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 11/27).

EXTENSION FOR COHON BEING DISCUSSED: The CP's Dan Ralph reported Cohon's current deal as commissioner expires in April, and his "future was a hot-button topic." Cohon wants to stay in his current position, and league governors "share that sentiment and the two sides continue to talk." Re-signing Cohon "would seem a slam-dunk for the CFL," as the league has "enjoyed steady growth under Cohon by both renewing existing sponsorships while adding a number of new ones." There is a "sense of calm throughout the league with no major fires burning," and Cohon has "shown a willingness to leave no stone unturned in an attempt to boost revenues." However, there is "talk now of some unrest on the board with some members feeling Cohon hasn't done enough to boost revenues and spent too much operating the league's head office in Toronto" (CP, 11/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Allan Maki wrote under the header, "Keeping The Commissioner Should Be A CFL Priority." Maki: "Cohon has been the kind of savvy facilitator the league has needed to make improvements and keep most of his bosses on side. Keeping him in office should be a priority because there are encouraging signs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25).
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