The League enters the new millennium on a continued upward curve. League attendance is up for the second straight year gaining 5.6% over the previous season as 1,718,312 fans filed through the turnstiles during the regular season. Television ratings rose dramatically as TSN's grew by a 17.9% increase over the '98 season. The CFL had another excellent season on the whole in 2000. Television ratings and attendance both rose dramatically over the 1999 season. Acting Commissioner & Chairman John Tory and President & COO Jeff Giles both stepped down from their respective positions. Michael R. Lysko was named as the tenth Commissioner of the CFL on November 1. Calgary hosted an extremely successful week of Grey Cup festivities culminating with another classic finish to the game.
Many new corporate partners were brought on board, buying into the "less is more" philosophy. Television ratings grew again in 2001, especially in the key 18-34 category where TSN saw a growth of 55%, while RDS' grew by an astounding 116%. The CFL suspended it's Week 11 games due to the Sept. 11 tragedies. The CFL officially returned to the city of Ottawa on October 16. A group led by Brad Watters secured the Ottawa Renegades as well as the 2004 Grey Cup. The 89th Grey Cup took place in Montreal with incredible success, marked by the second largest attendance in history at 65,255. The CFL moved offices in December to a downtown Toronto location on Wellington St. East after 10 years on Eglinton.
The Board of Governors unanimously decided on March 19 to relieve Michael Lysko of his duties as Commissioner. In accordance with the constitution, the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. David Braley became the acting Commissioner. On April 29, Paul Tagliabue became the first NFL Commissioner in history to visit the CFL Head Office. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers returned to the West Division. The Ottawa Renegades play their first regular season game ever on June 28 at Frank Clair Stadium. The CFL and CFLPA agreed to a new CBA on Oct. 16. TSN reported a 27% increase in viewership over 50 games. Tom E. Wright was introduced as the 11th Commissioner in CFL history on November 23. The Grey Cup attracted more than 60,000 fans for a record 2nd consecutive year. CBC announced a record TV audience of more than 5.2 million viewers nationally for the Grey Cup game.
A new 5-year television deal with TSN and CBC was announced on February 27. Seventy-seven games broadcast on TSN and CBC, most in League history. League introduces new specialty weekends including Canada Day Bash, Labour Day Classic and Gridiron Thanksgiving. CFL.ca launches new Website in July. The League office assumes control of the Toronto Argonauts Football Club on July 29. Chairman of the Board, Paul Robson, is appointed as interim Operations Manager. Receiver is appointed July 30. League office assumes control of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football franchise on August 15. Alan Ford is appointed as interim Operations Manager. CFL announces sale of Hamilton Tiger-Cats Football Club to Bob Young on October 7. CFL announces sale of Toronto Argonauts Football Club to Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon on November 5. TSN achieves second highest viewership average in League history. League realizes its second straight attendance increase (+2%) in as many seasons, more than two million fans filed into CFL stadiums. Grey Cup TV audience reaches 4.4 million Canadian homes. CFL signs long-term partnerships with Reebok, Rogers and Sun Microsystems.
George Black appointed as new Director of Officiating (replacing Neil Payne who retired in February 2004). The League, through its partnership with Sun Microsystems, launched real-time in-game statistics entry with live play-by-play and scoring offered on CFL.ca. The CFL announced its partnership with FSN and launched a player-based and team-based game for 2004 season on June 2. The CFL also launched its first ever online kids section - the Dare CFL KidsZone. CFL embarked on a new international broadcast agreement with Trajectory Sports & Media Group, which delivered Canadian football to more than 50 million households across 176 countries. More than 2.2 million fans took in CFL games, an 8% increase over 2003. U.S. television coverage resulted in the largest international broadcast distribution of the 92nd Grey Cup in Ottawa, available to more than 55 million television households. CFL post-season crowds set new playoff attendance record of 181,717.
New ownership group led by former player John Forzani takes over the Calgary Stampeders. Ottawa Renegades also announce new ownership group led by Bill Smith and Bernie Glieberman. First ever CFL game is played in Halifax, Nova Scotia as the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats play to a 16-16 draw at Huskie Stadium. For only the second time ever, a Grey Cup was decided in overtime as the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, B.C.
The year was busy with several major initiatives and franchise developments. The League suspended the Ottawa Renegades franchise on April 9th, and shifted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers into the Eastern Division, leaving the CFL to seek a new ownership group to provide long-term stability for the return of a franchise in the Nation’s Capital. Montreal was announced as the host city for the 2008 Grey Cup game. The season witnessed the successful implementation of the Instant Replay, and the approval and introduction of a Salary Management System. Commissioner Tom Wright announced he would not seek a contract extension. Prior to his final day in the office, Wright presented the Grey Cup to the BC Lions as they defeated the Montreal Alouettes in the 94th championship game in Canad Inns Stadium at Winnipeg. Commissioner Wright and TSN President Phil King announced landmark five- year multi-platform agreement between the League and TSN to commence 2008 on December 20th.
On April 17, 2007, Mark Cohon began his tenure as CFL Commissioner, appointed unanimously by the Board of Governors. The 2007 season saw the return of the Grey Cup to the city of Toronto for the first time in 15 years. It was herald as a great Grey Cup with the city embracing its return and highlighting a successful year for the league. League average attendance was 29, 167, the highest average since the 1983 season. The CFL entered its second season with the Salary Management System and it demonstrated its successful implementation as six clubs were under the salary expenditure cap and two teams exceeded and were penalized. The Saskatchewan Roughriders were fined, as were the Montreal Alouettes, who also lost a first round 2008 CFL Canadian Draft selection. The Saskatchewan Roughriders won their first Grey Cup since the 1989 season, defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 at Rogers Centre.
The year began with expansion news as the CFL granted a conditional franchise to a group of local Ottawa businessmen Jeff Hunt, Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy, William Shenkman. On the field, the CFL experienced its sixth highest scoring season in its history, averaging 56.24 combined points per game, a 14.5% increase from 2007 and 20.5% from 2006. Attendance in the CFL remained strong in 2008, averaging 28,914 per game and exceeded two million fans for the seventh straight season. On television, the CFL entered its first year in its new 5-year exclusive broadcast agreement with TSN. The average broadcast was watched by 393,000 fans, TSN’s highest rated CFL season. The Grey Cup returned to Montreal and the hometown Alouettes clinched first place in the East Division and qualified for the Grey Cup against the Calgary Stampeders. In front of 66,308 fans at Olympic Stadium, the second largest Grey Cup attendance, the Als were defeated by the Stampeders 22-14. The game was watched on TSN and RDS by 3.65 million Canadians.