- FREE AGENCY
Today’s Canadian Football League never really stops.
As soon as the Grey Cup is awarded, we switch our focus to the work ahead. It’s why I’m fond of saying that football season is quickly followed by our business season.
But there is a third season worth celebrating – and that is the holiday season. On behalf of the entire CFL, I want to wish you and yours all the happiness this time of year can bring. And I want to thank you for a very successful 2018.
The highlight, for me, as it always is, was Grey Cup.
The 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw was big and successful.
You, our fans, came out in droves in Edmonton. Everywhere I looked, I was amazed by your energy, your spirit and the sheer strength of your numbers.
More than 55,000 CFL fans packed The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. Almost 8.5 million of their fellow Canadians watched at least part of the Calgary Stampeders’ triumph on TSN and RDS.
Every festival event was packed: 2,050 at the Alberta Blue Cross Grey Cup Gala Dinner, 5,100 at the paid concerts, 1,734 at the Shaw CFL Awards, thousands more attended the team and tailgate parties.
Families flocked to the many free events: 10,000 people attended the kick-off party, and there were an estimated 225,000 visits the street festival and indoor activations.
The folks at the Shaw Conference Centre talked about closing the doors on Saturday because the place was almost over capacity. That hasn’t happened since it opened in 1983.
Every time our friends in football opened their doors, you came pouring in: 2,000 people attended each of the Spirit of Edmonton breakfasts, giving new meaning to the word “sociable!” Another 1,110 packed the Athletes in Action breakfast. Still another 1,100 attended the Canadian Football League Alumni Association luncheon. There wasn’t room for another lobster roll, let alone another lobster roll eater, the night the Atlantic Schooners announced their team name.
I have the privilege of hosting some of the leading people in sports, business and politics at Grey Cup: one after another, they told me they had never seen anything quite like it, that the Grey Cup is second to none when it comes to the great sporting events in the world.
I’m a very positive guy. So, I’m sometimes amazed by the tendency we can have in this country to under appreciate what we have in Canada.
I hear the media doesn’t cover the Grey Cup anymore: we had 401 requests for media accreditation and managed to find room for 382 of those folks.
Ninety-nine came from outside of Alberta.
Between the Sunday before Grey Cup to the Monday after the game, they produced close to 10,000 stories. Those appeared in places with a total reach of almost 3 billion people. If you tried to buy that many “media impressions”, it would cost more than $27 million. All of those numbers are up from the year before.
You’ll meet people who will tell you no one talks about Grey Cup anymore. #GreyCup trended number one in Canada on game day. Our fan engagement on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook was up 22 per cent. Total posts about Grey Cup on social media were up 19 per cent.
The truth is this was one of our greatest Grey Cups ever. And that’s saying something because the Grey Cup, which brings us together like nothing else, is one of the greatest things about Canada.
I say all this because, as we gear up for a new year, so will the naysayers.
In January, when our football leaders gather in Quebec for meetings on how to make our great game even better, someone is bound to say that we can’t compete with new leagues to the south.
When we hold our first combine for professional football players in Mexico, later the same month, someone will no doubt claim that we just can’t expand our international footprint, to provide new opportunities for young Canadian players who need a place to develop, or players from other countries good enough to play in the CFL.
They’ll continue to claim you cannot have fiscal discipline and great football at the same time, even though that is exactly what our cap on non-player costs is designed to deliver.
When we sit down in the new year to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players, you can bet someone will be spreading gloom and doom on the internet, right up until the moment we have a new deal.
Don’t believe them. This is a great league with a great history but an even brighter future. We can be all that we have been and so much more. We can build a bigger, better and stronger CFL. We can be more in Canada, and in the world. If we work together, and act boldly as well as responsibly, we can make a more prosperous league for everyone in it.
And the biggest reason why is you, our fans. I’m reminded of that all season long but especially at Grey Cup.
When I gather with family and friends over the next few weeks, in that tiny sweet spot between football season and business season, I will say a prayer of thanks for all of life’s blessings.
And you, my friends, will be near the top of my list. Happy holidays.