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Why Give the CFL Federal Funding?

Published: Monday, Jul 20th 2020, 2:07pm

by Adam Ailsby


0.01%. One, one hundredth of one percent. Let that sink in for a minute.

On July 10, TSN reported that the CFL has indeed now submitted a request for financial aid to the Federal Government with Dave Naylor indicating that the ask was for funds in the range of one quarter of the initial $150 million suggested by Commissioner Randy Ambrosie when spoke to the House of Commons about the absolute worst case scenario back on May 7.

That comes out to roughly $37.5 million. With a federal deficit of $343 billion, of which the COVID19 pandemic response spending and revenue deferrals conservatively comes in at a

minimum $320 billion, the CFL $37.5 million comes to roughly 0.01% of that total government COVID19 spending.


The Federal Government’s pandemic spending, whether you agree or disagree with the approach, will no doubt result in a long term significant tax increase for us all. So the question needs to be asked, would you as a Canadian, be willing to spend $1.00 for every $10,000.00 of increased taxes in order to temporarily support the CFL through the current season and keep the league alive into the future?


Even the most casual of CFL fans should be ready to set aside a few of those bottles and cans accumulating in their garages for the cause. But I would suggest that to even to the most cynical of Canadians who couldn’t care less about the CFL (ex: non-sports fans, millennial hipsters who think the CFL “like totally sucks” compared to the NFL, Torontonians and/or other generally crazy people), having the Federal Government provide the $37.5 million being requested is a no brainer.


In the days before the world went crazy and people could inadvertently cough in public without the risk of being chased by townsfolk with pitchforks and torches, there was an ongoing debate over the use of public funding for professional sports. In most of these cases, the debate centered around municipalities with comparatively small budgetary resources being asked to pony up big bucks to build a stadium. The size of the ask compared to the public purse in those situations at least makes the debate understandable. However, we are not dealing with a local municipality or even provincial government. We now live in a COVID19 world where the Federal Government has made a decision to indiscriminately open the coffers and saddle future generations with significant debt as a means to save our economy and industries.


On July 10, it was stated that the Federal Government “took on debt so Canadians wouldn’t have to.” Setting aside the idea that such a comment sounds like it was written by a 29 year old speech writer living in his parents’ basement with unfettered access to his mom’s credit cards and not understanding that someone has to pay the bills at the end of day, what this comment says is that funding across the board to all people and all sectors has already been determined as the policy of the day. The die has been cast, the wheels have been put in motion and, as that annoying lawyer friend at the dinner party likes to say, the precedent has been set.


In a Canada where there is a program for everything and everyone and the Prime Minister’s morning front porch announcements began to have the feel of an Oprah giveaway

show, it would be hypocritically obtuse to deny the CFL much needed funding when everyone else is being supported. I mean, if you are going to create a support program for peg-legged one-eyed pirates transitioning to careers in high level hyperbolic topology research, you can throw a few doubloons in the direction of the CFL.


Even setting aside the precedent side of things, the economic benefit associated with saving the CFL will astronomically exceed the $37.5 million ask. The economic impact of the

Grey Cup festival alone was calculated at $75 million in 2017 and $81 million in 2018. For Grey Cups in Saskatchewan, 2013 generated economic impact of $93 million and no doubt in excess of $100 million the next time the game is in town. And that is just one week in one location. You also have all of the economic impact for each of the other 94 game days

throughout the season and the various front office, stadium/concession workers, game day crew, team staff, coaches, scouts, players, media, production crew, journalists, not to mention incidental jobs like hotel staff and restaurant/bar staff that exist or are at least maintained because of the CFL. With all of this impact, I would venture an uneducated

guess that a $37.5 million expenditure would ensure a 100 fold economic impact at minimum.


Then you have the fact that for every person employed because of the CFL, that is one less person making use of the other various Federal Government programs.


There are also many often overlooked benefits that come from a vibrant flourishing CFL. The Federal Government has focused a large amount of energy in the past year or two on how Canada’s reputation in perceived on the world stage. What better way to promote Canada than the multitude of young American players (and their families) who come to Canada to play football and go back home singing the praises of their host cities and the country as a whole.


Just try saying “CFL” in the presence of NFL hall of fame quarterbacks Warren Moon or Joe Theismann and you will see what amazing ambassadors these former CFLers are for Canada as a whole. This focus will only grow due to the CFL 2.0 plan that will expand its reach around the world.


Plus, not every American player leaves Canada at the end of their playing days. Some stay, get jobs, raise families and contribute wonderfully to our communities, economies and tax base. I for one would be willing to spend $37.5 million of public funds just to maintain a league that has a small chance of attracting another person half as amazing as the national adopted treasure that is Pinball Clemons


Countless Canadian charities and causes may also have an opinion regarding the ongoing success of the CFL. We recently saw $900 million being put aside by the Federal Government to encourage young Canadians to volunteer. Maybe the CFL funding ask can come out of that program because the last time I looked, CFL players, coaches and teams spend an inordinate amount of time supporting great causes, volunteering and encouraging/inspiring other Canadians (young and old) to do the same. According to my abacus calculations, one would have to spend at least $37.5 million just to replace Dan Clark’s personal public/charitable appearances alone.


Not even mentioned previously in this long winded diatribe are other benefits to saving Canadian football like the trickle down physical, social and mental benefits to youth of the

football programs supported by the CFL and the potential partnership returns the Federal Government might be able to get from the CFL in return for funding. Whatever your political

leanings or your of view of football, it is hard to find any Canadian not benefiting from a healthy ongoing CFL. The idea of a paltry 0.01% of Federal Government funding going to save Canadian football, with all of its associated benefits, is simply a no brainer.


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