While the CFL fan base is notorious for being friendly, welcoming and camaraderie spanning team alliances, they are still prone to some pretty intense disagreements (often about super trivial things). Moving the season up? Divisive. CFL 2.0? Divisive. Is Kavis Reed an idiot or just incompetent? Divisive. Even the beloved Rouge can be a divisive issue. As such, few issues can unite them almost unanimously. This past weekend we found one of those issues... the ratio.
It was reported that there was agreement in principle at the bargaining table to reduce the number of Canadian starters from 7 to 5. Now before I get into my thoughts on the issue, let me just say that some have rightly surmised that this is nothing more than a deliberate tactic meant to divide and weaken the CFLPA at a key time. Who would benefit from such division and thus be willing to "leak" this information? Well I'll let you fill in the blanks.
But tactic or not, it has opened up a big conversation on the importance and merits of the ratio. Your first question might be "are you wearing pants while typing this?" I'll leave that one to your imagination. Your second question might be "Why would the CFLPA (who represents Canadian players) be willing to even consider this?" Remember that while half the league is Canadian, the other half are...? American. And with the exception of QBs, Canadian make more money than Americans. So the American half of the CFLPA would benefit greatly from less Canadian starting spots from a $$$ perspective. Also, the top Canadian would likely be unaffected as well. The Labattes, Laurents and Sinopolis of the world will still make top $ regardless of 5 vs. 7 spots. So its really only the fringe/depth Canadians who would be harmed by this. Not saying I like the idea, just pointing out why from a CFLPA perspective its something to think about.
As for me? Look, I get that from a business perspective and maybe even from a quality of product perspective this would be beneficial. I don't believe the quality of Canadian players is inferior (the top ones are as good as the ones south of the border that come up here). But the quantity of quality Canadian players is not necessarily there. Canadian depth is always an issue and it gets worse as the season wears on an injuries happen. Do you really think we would have let Josh Stanford on the field without the ratio? So I can see the allure.
But for all the operational sense this would make (for owners and players) it overlooks one important issue. Its a marketing nightmare. The CFL has become and longstanding Canadian institution thanks to a core of very dedicated fans. Fans who love Canadian football. Any attempt to reduce the Canadian portion of Canadian football does not make for a good headline and will not sit well with the core CFL fan base. While most of CFL's superstars are admittedly American, you need Canadians for fans to cheer for. Riderville is the shining example of this. Chris Szarka would get a standing O for a 2 yard run on first down. Every one of Jason Clermonts 7 receptions as a Rider led to a rash of pregnancies and babies named after him 9 months later. Parades are planned every time Rob Bagg catches a pass. We love our Canadians. Want another example? Because he is Canadian, people want so badly for Brandon Bridge to succeed that they are willing to overlook the fact that he isn't very good. I repeat, We love Canadians.
And so its in the CFL's best interest to maintain strong Canadian content and that does require the ratio. Would the top 4-5 Canadians still be on the starting roster without it? You bet. But reducing the ratio gives less opportunities for Canadians to shine. Less jobs for young players to aspire to. And less of what makes this league the CFL. Canadians. Zach Evans is likely never given the chance to develop from a raw junior player to the stud starter he is today with a 5 man ratio.
Are the 6th and 7th Canadian starters as good as American equivalents? In a lot of cases no. But Canadian pride has a lot more marketing value to the CFL than does the potential for a slightly better on field product.