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Volume 24 No. 113
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CFL Commissioner Outlines League's Goals, But Stresses Financial Responsibility

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon on Friday said that the league is now "focused on moving ahead with modern initiatives," according to Rachel Brady of the GLOBE & MAIL. Cohon during his annual state of the league address at the Grey Cup touched on "new stadiums, the Ottawa RedBlacks expansion franchise, a possible June start to the regular season and player safety." He also mentioned a "new TV deal for 2014 with TSN and RDS, new technologies, attracting younger fans, and creating better game-day experiences inside the stadiums, including the new buildings for next season in Hamilton and Ottawa." Cohon said, "We can continue to grow and build that modern and innovative CFL but only if we resist that temptation of going back to the old, reckless financial ways of the CFL." Cohon, pressed on what the CFL is doing to be proactive about concussions, said, "The recorded number of concussions was essentially flat over last year, but we believe we’re doing a better job of addressing it and treating our players." Meanwhile, he said that league-wide attendance was up about 1.5% over last year, "not considering the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ home games, which were played this season at The University of Guelph’s 13,000-seat stadium." TV ratings on TSN were up 4.3% over '12, while ratings on TSN and RDS combined were up 3.6%. In addition, Cohon said that to "address issues of filling stadiums in cold November temperatures ... the league could explore the possibilities of starting the season in June rather than July." He also said that the CFL’s BOG will "discuss which new stadiums will be ready to host Grey Cups and start to determine a timeline" in early '14 (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/23).

INDIVIDUAL ISSUES: The CP's Dan Ralph noted with the CFL's CBA set to expire prior to the start of the next training camp, Cohon "preached the importance of financial responsibility." The CFLPA will want the league's C$4.4M salary cap "to increase significantly." Cohon said that "despite the CFL’s growth, challenges remain." They include: continuing to put the Toronto Argonauts "on sound financial footing; Winnipeg servicing a long-term debt; the Saskatchewan Roughriders investing [C]$50-million into a new facility slated to open in 2017; and expansion Ottawa managing a long-term investment at Lansdowne Park" (CP, 11/22). In Winnipeg, Kirk Penton noted the CFL’s new broadcast deal is "expected to provide each team" with approximately C$4.3M per season. Teams currently get about C$2M per season. However, Cohon "warned that teams won’t be allowed to spend like drunken sailors when it comes to player salaries" (WINNIPEG SUN, 11/23).

In Toronto, Damien Cox noted Cohon "would like to see" the Argos join MLS Toronto FC as a tenant at BMO Field. The "long-suffering fans of Toronto FC absolutely detest the notion of their home stadium -- built at a cost of [C]$62 million -- being renovated to fit the needs of a CFL franchise." MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke after years of "losing and growing fan disenchantment ... is listening to TFC supporters, which means saving the Argos isn’t on his priority list." Leiweke said, "Our first focus has been and continues to be how we fix BMO Field for soccer. That has to be highest priority. We have to make it better than it is for soccer." Cox noted, "The CFL is looking to MLSE to save the Argos, [and] MLSE is catering to its soccer customers and talking about a roof for BMO Field, which might cost" C$100M and would "have to be paid for by MLSE." If the city were to "push for a plan that would include a CFL team and agree to pay for a big chunk of the costs, that could change the dynamic" (TORONTO STAR, 11/23).