Poll results indicate many Canadians don’t want the NFL here at the expense of the CFL

A new national poll says many Canadians don’t want the NFL here at the expense of the CFL, but it could also reinforce the biggest challenge facing the Canadian league.

The poll of 1,512 Canadians was conducted November 19-21 by Reginald Bibby, a sociologist at the University of Lethbridge, in partnership with Maru Public Opinion. Bibby has been following national sporting trends since 1990.

In the poll, 34 percent of respondents said they don’t want the NFL in Canada or only want it if the CFL also survives. But while 11 percent said they would welcome the arrival of the NFL even at the expense of the CFL, a majority (55 percent) didn’t care anyway.

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This could illustrate the general malaise currently afflicting CFLs.

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On a positive note, the CFL continues to have a slightly higher number of subscribers in Canada than the NFL (21 percent versus 20 percent). But in recent years, and 2021 in particular, some concerns have arisen.

“The fact that 21 percent of Canadians say they follow the CFL – tied with the NFL – but almost 50 percent think the NFL could come to Canada suggests considerable interest in the matter,” Bibby said. “That’s more than around 30% in 1995.

“If we asked people what they thought about the possible demise of the CBC, I suspect a lot of them would also say that they ‘don’t care anyway.’ What is disconcerting is that interest in the CFL, while still impressive given that the league receives virtually no publicity through US media, has waned slightly over the past few years. It must be remedied. “

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The league resumed in 2021 after skipping the ’20 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the level of play was slow to return after a sabbatical, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (23 offensive points per game) the most scoring team and the Montreal Alouettes (371.8 yards per game) posting the best. offensive.

Compare that to 2019, when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats led the CFL in points (26.1 points per game) and offense (393.7 yards per game). This sparked suggestions that the league has an entertainment problem, which may partly explain why the average attendance this year is only 19,164 when two years ago it was 22,917.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans celebrate late in the fourth quarter as the Saskatchewan Roughriders leave the stadium in the second half of CFL football action in Regina on Sunday, September 5, 2021.


Sunday’s playoff games in Hamilton and Regina weren’t sold out. A rally of 21,892 people were at Tim Hortons Field (over 23,000 capacity) for the East Division Ticats’ 23-12 semifinal victory over the Montreal Alouettes, while 24,001 spectators watched the Roughriders. of Saskatchewan smother the Calgary Stampeders 33-30 in overtime in the West Division game at Mosaic Stadium (over 33,000 capacity).

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In 2011, the average CFL attendance was 27,767.

Nowhere are the CFL’s attendance problems more pronounced than in Toronto, its largest market. The Argos (9-5) finished atop the East Division but averaged just 8,603 fans per game, a figure somewhat skewed by the season-high 10,851 BMO Field rally, which saw the club clinch first with a 31-12 home win over Ticates on 12 November.

Toronto hosts Hamilton in the Eastern Final on Sunday. Saskatchewan is in Winnipeg for the Western Finals, with the Bombers having sold over 29,000 tickets for the contest.

The poll asked respondents, “What do you think of the expansion of the NFL in Canada?” Sixteen percent didn’t want this to happen (up from 20 percent in 2013 and 13 percent in 1995) while 18 percent only agreed if CFLs survived (20 percent in 2013, 11 percent in 2013). cent in 1995).

The 55 percent who didn’t care were up from 51 percent in 2013, but still down from 67 percent in 1995. This suggests that the issue has interested about half of the Canadian population for some time. time.

Not surprisingly, pro-CFL sentiment was evident in Western Canada. Respondents in British Columbia (19 percent), Alberta (26 percent) and Saskatchewan-Manitoba (35 percent) did not want the NFL in Canada.

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These numbers decreased if the NFL moved north and the CFL still existed (16% in BC, 20% in Alberta, 21% Saskatchewan-Manitoba). And only nine percent of respondents in British Columbia would be happy to have the NFL here if that meant the end of the CFL (11 percent in Alberta and nine percent in Saskatchewan-Manitoba).

The sentiment for the CFL in Eastern Canada was not as strong. Fourteen percent of respondents in Ontario wanted the NFL in Canada, while that number declined in Quebec (eight percent) and Atlantic Canada (11 percent).

Twenty-one percent in Ontario would support the NFL in Canada if the CFL also survived, with 17 percent support in Quebec and 11 percent support in Atlantic Canada. The numbers fell to 11 percent, 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively, regarding the happiness of seeing the NFL come north at the expense of the CFL.

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But again, the overwhelming number of respondents didn’t care (54 percent in Ontario, 62 percent in Quebec, 68 percent in Atlantic Canada). And the age range didn’t really matter either, as 56% of people aged 18 to 62 said they didn’t care, compared to 55% in the 35 to 54 age group and 54% in the 55 to 54 age group. more class.

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The CFL has acknowledged that it wants to rejuvenate with its fans and Bibby believes the poll is good news for the league in that regard.

“Nationally, the proportion of adults aged 18 to 34 who follow the CFL is 21%, identical to that of the NFL,” he said. “What gives the impression that the CFL fan base is aging is that the league has a greater proportion of fans in the 55 and over category – 28 percent versus 19 percent for the NFL.

“Add up all the CFL fans and they look older; focus on football fans between the ages of 18-34 and they are just as likely to follow the CFL as the NFL.

Fans hold up “My Hero” cards during a CFL second half football game between the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the British Columbia Lions in Hamilton, Ont. on Friday, November 5, 2021.


But Bibby said with the entertainment competition everywhere, the CFL needs more flair.

“He has to showcase the talents and personalities of his players,” he said. “Add more excitement and entertainment to its TV shows, make every home game an event and draw wisely from its long and unique history.

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“This includes his stars and the events of his past, to underline his important place in Canadian culture. “

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Hockey continues to be the sport of choice for Canadians with 38 percent of respondents saying they follow the NHL closely. However, this is a decrease from 40% in 2016 and 46% the year before.

Professional football is solidly in second (30 percent), but interest is also down from 32 percent in 2016 and 34 percent in 2015. Major League Baseball is followed closely by about 20 percent of Canadians, ahead of the NBA (15 percent). cent) and Major League Soccer (10 per cent).

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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