CFL Congress Notes

On Wednesday plenty of news came out of the 2007 CFL Congress in Montreal.

Search for CFL Commissioner Continues

The search for a CFL commissioner has been narrowed to three or four candidates with an appointment expected by the end of March. Of interest is the revelation that one of the finalists is an American. I hope that the CFL will not go the route of the NHL with an American executive talking the helm for the sake of their US business contacts. The CFL has no need for someone to break into the US market; it is not going to happen. Instead, a candidate with a strong understanding of Canada and the uniqueness of Canadian football is needed. The desire to make this hire a long-term position also translates to not taking chances with an unconventional hire.

Window Opened on Transparency

After statements from the CFL director of salary expenditures earlier in the week claimed the Salary Management System would not be transparent to the public the CFL backtracked, with COO Michael Copeland stating public disclosure has not been determined yet. Gene Dunn, acting commissioner, said that the transparency of the system will be decided by the incoming commissioner. While publishing player salaries was raised, the league would need to come to an agreement with the CFLPA since the current labour agreement does not allow the league to publish these numbers, with the CFLPA privately sharing them with agents and players.

With the doubts raised about adherence to the cap over the lack of transparency, more claims came from those responsible that the cap will be in affect.

Rule Changes Proposed

Recommendations for rule changes from the CFL Congress will be drawn up and brought to the board of governors in April. Two major changes from last year are getting serious support for reversal in 2007. The first to revert kick blocking rules to those in place in 2005. The other change will be to switch back to a football with standard painted stripes rather than sewn in painted sections for stripes.

The CFL is supposed to have a competitive committee to look at and recommend rules changes, but there was no mention of the committee in this week’s stories. It appears the general managers are making the recommendations here and they are sticking with reverting those two changes last year to correct the scoring drought that occurred last year with both special teams and offensive touchdowns way down.

2007 Schedule Released

With team approval at the CFL Congress received, the CFL released the 2007 schedule today. A nice compromise to getting teams a bye week but eliminating the silly schedule juggling it has caused in the past (20 week seasons, long breaks with no games followed by 3 games in 12 days, and season ending byes). Instead of shutting the league down for a week, two division rivalry weeks in August, with the other division taking the bye, were drawn up. This is a fair compromise. While it does reduce the CFL‘s exposure at the end of the summer with only four games on TV over two weeks, it avoids many of the other scheduling issues that come with trying to insert byes into the schedule. I do not believe byes improve the play on the field, and should not be necessary since rosters are expanded more than 15-20 years ago when small rosters and no byes were in affect, but they seem to be here to stay.

The schedule is not perfect however. Continuing a tradition best left to die, the CFL once again starts the season with a rematch of last year’s Grey Cup. In an effort to shoehorn B.C. and Toronto into the schedule on the opening day, they have a June 28 opening day game in Toronto starting at 6:30 PM local time on a Thursday night. An early start on a regular weeknight will likely hurt the Argos crowd, while the B.C. TV audience will be at work and on the commute for most or all of the game. The CFL needs to learn that more interest can be built on the rematch if it occurs later in the season and there is no need to force the schedule in such a fashion.

Otherwise it is a very traditional CFL schedule with Labour Day weekend classic matches, the Hall of Fame game in Hamilton, and Thanksgiving match ups.

Update: More background on this year’s schedule.

Other Notes

  • Talks with the Palmer group continue regarding returning a team to Ottawa for 2008.
  • An agreement with the Arena Football League regarding respecting player contracts is close to being announced.
  • The television schedule is expected to be announced in the next two weeks.
  • CFL free agency starts tonight at midnight Eastern time.

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