Monday, January 14, 2008

CFL Expansion

I had a request from long-time Prophet fan Steve to post my thoughts on CFL expansion. So here goes...

First of all yes, I am in favour of the CFL expanding. Quite frankly, it’s tough defending the legitimacy of a league where your odds of making the playoffs are way better than your odds of missing them (unless you're the Ti-cats). "But Prophet," you say, "do you really think expansion will work after attempts failed in 7 American cities and twice in Ottawa?" Okay, anyone who actually thought that Canadian football would be successful in the US probably also thought that it would only be a matter of time before Jessica Simpson won an Oscar for Best Actress, and if it weren't for the fact that the Gliebermans have about as much business sense as a half-eaten turkey sandwich that has been left out in the sun for three days, Ottawa would still have a team.

I have prepared a list of possible expansion sites (listed from most logical on down) and some suggestions for team names:
Ottawa - You could go the easy route and revive the Renegades, but if you want to revitalize football in Ottawa I would go with something edgy and tough like the Face Punchers or the Chuck Norris's.
Quebec City - Every team from the province has to have a French name so how about the Frère Jacques, Poutines, or my personal favorite "le Pamplemousse".
Maritimes - A group has been campaigning for the Atlantic Schooners for years but I think a slightly different team name would be in order. In keeping with a nautical theme, how about the Atlantic Sea Men.
Victoria - Now you may think adding another team to the province that is already home to the B.C. Lions would cause problems, but Tampa Bay managed to win a Stanley Cup despite the presence of the Florida Panthers so I think this could work. As for a team name, I would go with the "Secrets" (trust me the stands would be packed).
London or Kitchener - Given that this would be the 3rd or even 4th team in Ontario they would need to play off the popularity of others in order to be successful. I suggest the "Guitar Heroes" as that seems to be popular with the kids these days.
Territories - Given that a town of oil rich tycoons who enjoy regular chinooks already own the rights to the most logical name for this team, it would naturally have to be the "Seal Clubbers" (and they would use their first pick in the expansion draft to select the new face of the franchise, Henry Burris).

I thought it would be interesting to see which provinces are carrying their weight in terms of CFL teams. Saskatchewan and Manitoba each support 1 team with populations that hover right around 1 million, but then again there's really nothing else to do in those provinces. So I will use Alberta as my comparison point as they manage to support 2 CFL teams with around 3.5 million people despite the presence of an NHL team in both cities (well, one NHL team and then whatever it is that the Oilers are). That means they have a football team for every 1,750,000 people.

Here's how the rest of Canada stacks up:
- Saskatchewan and Manitoba are both exceeding my arbitrary bar
- The Maritimes collectively could support 1.3 teams... so bring on the Sea Men (rest assured this is the last time that combination of words will ever appear on my blog. But if you enjoyed reading it, please visit my lesser known side project blog, Ride 'er 4 Profit. The camera work is stellar.)
- BC should be able to support 2.5 teams given their population so although they aren't complete slackers they could be doing better. For the record, I believe this is the first time that BC has not been high.
- Quebec should be able to support 4.4 teams so asking for 1 more shouldn't be too onerous. Although from what I understand, Quebec legislation states that the CFL must employ one French referee for every team in the province. This has left the league less interested in expansion and more interested in contracting the Alouettes.
- Ontario is by far the Canadian slacker as they should be able to support 7.4 teams with their population. That means that they have room for 5 more teams! That said, if half of the league was situated in Southern Ontario, the humidity issues would border on catastrophic.

For anyone who's interested, the Territories collectively could only support 0.14 teams so I guess the Seal Clubbers just aren't in the cards yet (much to the dismay of the dogsled valet industry).

Maybe the solution to the expansion problem requires thinking outside the box. If movies have taught me nothing else, it's that you can turn a bunch of inmates into a competitive football team. And so, I propose a team comprised completely of inmates from our country's prisons... The State Penn Shankers. Not only would it make prisoners give something back to society but the team would have no issue meeting salary cap as the inmates would not get paid. There's already a middle linebacker at their disposal. It may also be possible to bring in a marquee import QB from down south if a deal can be cut (not to mention most of the Cincinnati Bengals).

All my ideas of course completely ignore the need for investors to fund the team, a football stadium with significant capacity to financially sustain a franchise, a management group with significant expertise in football operations and players to fill the rosters, but hey, if I was that good at developing sound business proposals I would probably be making millions in the venture capital market instead of giving my ideas away for free.


Anonymous said...

Well i must admit this is the most wacked idea i've heard so far for CFL expansion. At least when I came up with my idea for CFL expansion I used common sense. Truth be told, I don't see the CFL going to Quebec City. despite the great support from fans in Montreal over the last few years, we got to remember the Montreal folded twice, and they were the only team in Quebec at the time, not like Ottawa who has 3 other teams around. A team will eventually end up in Halifax or Moncton and as much as the "Seas Men" seem amusing, the Schooners will probably be the name. But if they call it a Halifax team, how about "The Explosion" to pay tribute to the massive event.
Bringing back the Ottawa Renegades seems logical to me too and to join them in Ontario, I also agree that a team needs to go in either Kitchener or London. I think London would be more successful considering the ongoing tradition of Football greatness at Western University. I say we call them the "London Silverbacks", and for Kitchener, the "Crusaders". Now because we've got 4 teams in Ontario it seems only logical we split the league into 3 division (East, West and Ontario) Ontario gets Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and London/Kitchener of course. In the East goes Atlantic, Montreal, Winnipeg and Saaskatchewan. And in the West, we'll put Calgary, Edmonton, BC and the final expansion team. Yes, i like the idea of a team in Victoria. However, i think the BC Lions need to move to Victoria which opens the door to a new franchise in Vancouver. no doubt they can host a team in Canada's 3rd largest city.

finiteman said...

It actually is not bad logic. IMO you need to look at metro regions to predict if they can pull 22K ticket sales and a reasonable zone of influence for merchandising sales. For example, in Alberta, you have two teams splitting the state are their merchandising zone and each city's metro area as their ticket area.

IMPO, I think the number for merchandising is 700K-11.1M+, and the number for the city/CSA has to be much better than 300K. Regina should be seen as an exception, not as an example since you are building from scratch.

I think the following communities could be viable if the stadiums could be acheived and CFL team salaries could drop by 25%.

Victoria/Vancouver Island
Kelowna/Okanagan Valley -- marginal
Tri-Cites + Guelph
Ottawa (duh!)
North Shore + Laval
South Shore + Longueuil/Montérégie
Quebec City
Moncton (probably)
St. John's, Newfoundland (possibly)

The idea of moving the BC Lions would be a very hard sale, but it could make more sense for the league to move the Lions to the Okanagan Valley. The regular population in the Valley is a little too small at just under 300K, but the population swells over the summer months --- apparently it doubles. A small market team like that should be the team that owns the province name to enhance it's chances of survival. A familiar and popular team name would only help the team's chances.

An expansion team (or 2 --- vancouver and Surrey?) could be started in Vancouver and would pick up most of the regular city-based attendees of Lions games.

Moncton only has 126K people, but PEI is nearby and has another 140K. Probably within 90 minutes there are 300K or so. NB and PEI together has just under 900K. There is a real question whether the city can sell the tickets, but it SHOULD be doable and the marketing region is sound. Will NB and PEI residents drive to the games like folks in SK? Would bad weather cost a Moncton team a few high turnout games and put a team in financial danger?

I think the biggest mistake CFL fans make in looking at the league is assuming that Ontario just won't support the CFL. It really is just that the league has a very minimal presence in the region and as such doesn't excite the populace. The region needs 5-6 teams, not 2. The additional Ontario teams would help Toronto and Hamilton attendance (as well as the other provincial teams) by being able to travel fans.

Finiteman said...

Newfoundland's population (just under 500K on the island) is a bit small for marketing purposes and they likely need a small dome to handle early season games, but I am not sure you can cross off St. John's.

If the league would be willing to make small concessions and the community was willing to spend some money, that could be workable too.

finiteman said...

My first post mentions "...merchandising is 700K-11.1M+,..." --- that should read "...merchandising is 700K-1.1M+,...".

Additionally, something I glossed over in dealing with cities metro sizes is the impact of that in terms or corporate support. In a metro region of ~120K or so ---like Moncton --- you may have trouble getting local corporations to financially support your team. There are simply fewer. In areas with larger metro populations, like say London, where there is 450K+ in the metro area, there are more and larger corporations which increase the chances of selling luxury boxes and whatnot.

The flip side of this is that there is a lot less competition for that corporate dollar in smaller metro areas...

Still, it would require the CFL to adjust their financial structure to accommidate a team like this.