SBD/November 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

CFL's Mark Cohon Says Six Of Eight Teams In League At Least Break Even

Cohon thinks a smaller venue would suit the Argonauts better than the Rogers Centre
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon last Friday during his annual state-of-the-league address said that "six out of the league's eight teams break even or make money," and while he did not name the teams, it is the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats "that are struggling," according to David Ebner of the GLOBE & MAIL. Cohon said, "We know we have work here in southern Ontario." Cohon spoke "about a long-term goal to house the Argos in a more intimate venue than the cavernous Rogers Centre, pointing to Hamilton and Ottawa whose new stadiums are a good fit for the CFL with capacity of about 24,000." But the "idea is very much in the concept stage." The Argos have "felt a boost from the 100th Grey Cup as they have sold 'hundreds' of new season tickets in the past week, buoyed by the hype and excitement around the game" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/24). In Winnipeg, Kirk Penton wrote with the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats, there is "a plan in place to rebuild both fan bases, but it's going to take some time." Both franchises received C$500,000 "from their league brethren last year for marketing purposes, and more could be coming from the league’s coffers." The Argos are "targeting 'new Canadians' and younger fans." Meanwhile, the Tiger-Cats "are trying to expand their fan base to more parts of the Hamilton region." Playing home games "in Guelph next season will aid in that quest as well" (WINNIPEG SUN, 11/24). In Canada, Steve Milton noted Cohon "conceded the CFL would help the Ticats with some of the costs involved in playing all of their games away from Hamilton with most, if not all, at Guelph." Cohon said that it "hadn't been decided whether that financial help would come from the southern Ontario initiative extension or a stand-alone fund" (Hamilton SPECTATOR, 11/25).

OTHER LEAGUE ISSUES: Cohon said that while "expansion to Moncton, Halifax or Quebec City isn’t something that will happen until a stadium is plausible for those cities, the league hasn’t ruled out a 10th team in one of these locations following Ottawa’s return" in '14. But if "expansion did occur, he thought only one of those cities would enter the CFL." Cohon said that an average "of 28,000 people attended games across the league, a slight increase from 2011 but television ratings were up substantially." He also added that "no changes are planned to requiring teams to have a designated Canadian quarterback but roster spots at training camp will again be open for them to intern with existing passers" (TORONTO STAR, 11/24). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur wrote Cohon's "list of accomplishments is starting to pile up." The "revenue tide keeps rising." Cohon "introduced drug testing, held payroll excesses in check ... and patched over the ownership holes with the help" of B.C. Lions and Argonauts Owner David Braley. Cohon said of his future, "I’m happy where I am, I’m challenged, and I hope to [be] around for a while, while I’m still challenged." Arthur noted the challenges "include the TV contract, expansion, Toronto, all that" (NATIONAL POST, 11/24).

DOUBLE DIPPING: In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote a "number of people perceive a big problem" with Braley owning both the Argos and the B.C. Lions. However, since Braley "took over the Argos, a franchise he was helping prop up anyway, there hasn't been a peep about bankruptcies or missed payrolls or salary cuts or any of the other divertissements that long consumed the CFL's credibility." Over the "past couple of years, in fact, the league has enjoyed a period of growth and stability that is virtually unprecedented in its history, and Braley's ownership of the Argos has been instrumental in that success." Willes: "Yes, it would be better if someone in the Big Smoke would buy the Argos or if the Lions were sold to local owners." But "until that person arrives, the CFL will have to endure the tuttutting over the Argos and Lions" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/23). In Montreal, Stu Cowan wrote the CFL "definitely has its flaws" as Braley "owns two teams." But the CFL "is our game and we should be proud of it and the fact the Grey Cup remains our national party." The game provides "a breath of fresh air for frustrated Canadian sports fans" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/24).

A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER: The GLOBE & MAIL's Vidya Kauri reports in an "attempt to create a new tradition," the CFL yesterday invited fans to "join a parade and take turns carrying" the Grey Cup from the Univ. of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre, the site of last night's Grey Cup game. The parade "wound through downtown, picking up hundreds more to arrive near the stadium in a crowd estimated at 3,000" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/26). Cohon "told hundreds of fans at Varsity Stadium he was hoping to make this inaugural parade of the trophy to the stadium on game day a regular event." Cohon told the crowd, "It will only become a new tradition if you guys don’t drop it. Treat it with the respect it deserves" (TORONTO STAR, 11/26). Also in Toronto, Maryam Shah notes with the 100th Grey Cup Festival "teaming up with Cavalcade of Lights and the Santa parade, the football event -- combined with the lack of on-ice action -- transformed into a citywide celebration, with supporters flying in from all over Canada" (TORONTO SUN, 11/26).
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