September 9, 2010

Cohon: 2010 mid-season report

Mark Cohon

Thanks to you, our fans, our league is having a great year.

And now that we’ve reached the midway point of this season, I wanted to share with you a bit of a half-time report on the 2010 season.

Our attendance is strong, at an average of 28,322 per game. We’re basically even with last year at this point and Scotiabank Labour Day Weekend featured tremendous crowds.

The television ratings for the CFL on TSN and RDS continue to soar. They’re up 9 per cent over last year. On average, more than 910,000 Canadians watch each regular season game, and we’ve had several games with audiences exceeding one million viewers. In fact, overnight ratings for last weekend indicate an average of 1.1 million Canadians watched the four Scotiabank Labour Day Weekend games.

On the football side, the game has been exciting, with almost half of our games (44.4 per cent) decided in the final three minutes. (By that, I mean that either the winning points were scored in the final three minutes or the winning team had less than a seven point lead and stopped the other team’s final drive.)

The big kick return has made a comeback this season. We’re on pace to have the highest frequency of kick returns for TDs ever in the CFL – one every three games.

Overall, scoring is up five per cent over last year, at 53.9 points per game. It’s up 15 per cent, by the way, from 2006.

The passing game is having a banner year: our quarterbacks have completed an amazing 62.9 per cent of their passes. That’s on pace to surpass the record for the highest completion percentage in a season, 62.7 per cent set in 2008.

The rushing stats are fascinating. While we’re seeing the second fewest number of rushes per game ever, at 38.3 rushing plays a game,  the average gain per carry is an astounding 6.1 yards, the highest ever.

So you can’t help but wonder if teams will run the ball more in the second half of the season, as they adjust and counter adjust as we progress towards the playoffs and the Grey Cup.

Speaking of Grey Cup, we’re all gearing up for Edmonton this November, excited by the fact that the 2010 Grey Game sold out last June – one week after tickets went on sale to the general public and five and a half months before the game.

We’re also looking forward to Grey Cup 2011 in Vancouver. And work has already started on an event for the ages – the One Hundredth Grey Cup in 2012. Toronto will host that game and festival, but we also plan to take the spirit of the Grey Cup, and the trophy itself, across the country in a truly national celebration of our game and our country  and what they mean to each other.

In the meantime, we’re just a few weeks away now from Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic in Moncton – the first ever regular season CFL game in Atlantic Canada, featuring the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts on Sunday, September 26th.

That game also sold out with incredible speed and we’re hoping thousands more join us for an uniquely Atlantic Canadian celebration – a sort of mini-Grey Cup festival — that will fill that entire weekend with fun events.

Many of you have asked me about adding a permanent CFL team in Atlantic Canada. We know this game is going to be a great success, and there is talk about it becoming an annual event. But a lot has to happen before we can seriously talk about expansion to Atlantic Canada, including development of a proper stadium and the emergence of the right owners.  The best way I can put it is the tremendous enthusiasm of fans out east has transformed this idea from a dream to a possibility – not a probability and far from a certainty, but a possibility.

Of course, we’re already on the road to expansion in Ontario, with Ottawa set to join the league in 2013. City Council there has approved a beautiful redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, including a refurbished Frank Clair Stadium. And our football operations people are already discussing possible expansion draft rules with our teams.

There are also exciting stadium projects that are either underway or have been recently completed in Vancouver, Edmonton,  Calgary, Winnipeg, and Montreal.

I know there is concern across the league about the future of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, one of our oldest and proudest franchises. The stadium discussion in Hamilton has been a very challenging political situation, and it’s going to take time to work out. I’m hopeful a solution can be found that is in the best interests of the team and our fans in that region. And I and my team are working very closely with the Tiger-Cats towards that goal.

The important thing to note is Bob Young remains on a mission to not only sustain the team, but to actually save it for the long run by ensuring it is financially viable, while he is owner, and long after he is owner. That is why he has been working towards a proper stadium in a location that’s right for the community and makes business sense for the Tiger-Cats. All of us who love this league owe him a debt of gratitude for his passion and perseverance. He is typical of our owners and Governors: they really see themselves as stewards of something that is very special and uniquely Canadian, and they often fulfill that responsibility by investing their money as well as their time and dedication.

I’m sure while some of you are celebrating your favourite team’s promising first-half performance, others are concerned about a team that’s struggling. Well, there is a lot of football to be played. It has long been said that in the CFL our second season really starts on Labour Day, so we’ll see how things work out for all of our teams. The beauty of our format is everyone is still in the hunt.

What I can tell you, for sure, that our league is in good shape. All leagues, all businesses, face challenges, and we are no exception. But overall, the CFL is in a strong position. The credit for that goes to players and coaches that put a great product on the field, a Board of Governors that provide us all with principled and dedicated leadership, our partners who are so essential to our success, and most importantly, you, our fans. When we say This is Our League, we really mean that it belongs to you, and your fellow Canadians who love it and support it. And you’re doing a great job of supporting the CFL again in 2010.

Thank you for being such a fan, enjoy the upcoming run to the playoffs, and I hope to see you on the road to the Grey Cup.