"The Canadian Football League needs to understand how to market itself, and realize it's losing fans, not gaining them."
JASON GREGOR, EDMONTON JOURNAL - September 20, 2016
While other leagues are finding ways to become more inclusive, the CFL is seemingly becoming more exclusive.
More and more teams are limiting dressing room access to media, which means fewer stories for fans to see, hear and read. It is laughable how behind-the-times the league is when it comes to dealing with the media, who are an extension of the fans.
Last week, the decision-makers at head office decided to part ways with CFL.ca freelance writers Justin Dunk and Rod Pedersen.
Dunk is a good young reporter who covers the league very well and who has broken many league stories. He will still do this, just not for the league-run site.
Pederson, the longtime voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is a huge supporter of the CFL and is not afraid to share his opinion. He is well-known among CFL fans, and even those who disagreed with him would read his stuff.
Pedersen teed off on CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge a few weeks ago on his own blog, and I’m sure that’s why he isn’t writing at CFL.ca anymore. Pedersen didn’t need the gig, he has a lot going on, but the CFL needs people like Pedersen, who are hugely passionate about the league, because the harsh reality is that number is shrinking, not growing.
Pedersen took issue with the Orridge after he said the Roughriders “compromised the reputation of the CFL” after being fined for roster violations and practicing with ineligible players. So what? A little controversy is never bad.
However the commissioner and league should look in the mirror when mentioning the idea of compromised reputations, because a few weeks after the Riders were fined $60,000, the CFL decided to change the rule regarding coaching challenges in the middle of the week after one game had already been played. Why does a professional league change a rule in the middle of the week?
I’ve always been a fan of the CFL, but I find my interest in the league is slowly fading. Not because of the players or the game, but because of how the league is run. And the response I get from many fans on my radio show is their interest in it is dwindling as well.
The Edmonton Eskimos are the defending Grey Cup Champions, but they haven’t made any gains among fans this season. There was excitement in November when they won, but it fizzled out quickly, and they were unable to build on it heading into this season.
If a championship can’t ignite some new passion in your city, I’m not sure what can. That is a major concern, and the league needs to take a long look inward during the off-season and find some ways to attract new fans to and keep loyal fans interested.
They need leadership from the top, and since he’s been hired, Orridge simply hasn't provided any. Instead, we've seen numerous, glaring mistakes.
Last year during Grey Cup week, the league unwisely decided to unveil a new website. However, it wasn't even complete when it went live two days before the Grey Cup. They looked amateurish.
There was the coach-hiring debacle in December, when Orridge put a freeze on coaching hires after some teams poached coaches from other organizations. There were no fines or penalties. He just stopped teams from filling out their coaching vacancies.
The charm of the CFL has always been the personalities of the players. They aren’t paid millions. They aren’t mercenaries. They come from various backgrounds, and often, you saw them become part of the community. Fans related to them and respected them.
However, nowadays, fans know less about the players than ever before, despite there being more platforms for the league and teams to promote their players.
The CFL unveiled a new website, but there are rarely any features on the players. They might want to think about checking out websites of the other pro leagues in North America and take notes.
Those leagues are either promoting their players themselves or having their broadcast partners do it for them.
The Calgary Stampeders have won nine games in a row. I haven’t see one fun or unique interview with a player about their streak.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers resurrected their season with a seven-game winning streak.
They play each other this week. It is the biggest marquee match-up of the season and you can’t find anything about on the front page of CFL.ca on Tuesday morning.
The NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA promote the heck out of their stars and their rivalry games.
Sell yourself. If you don’t do it in 2016, you won’t be successful in any business.
You can listen to Jason Gregor weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on TSN 1260, read him at oilersnation.com and follow him on Twitter @jasongregor