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Rick Zamperin: Don’t take the Canadian out of the CFL

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie's CFL 2.0 plan would open the game to more international players.
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie's CFL 2.0 plan would open the game to more international players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The last time I checked, CFL stood for Canadian Football League.

Not American Football League, or Mexican Football League, or French Football League, or German Football League, or European Football League, or fill-in-the-blank football league for that matter.

The CFL is the Canadian Football League for a reason — it’s our game.

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A report on 3DownNation claims that ‘sources’ say the CFL and CFL Players’ Association are talking about the possibility of lowering the number of mandatory Canadian starters per team from seven to five.

The discussion reportedly happened during the opening round of talks as the league and players’ union negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the 2019 season and beyond.

CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay has refuted the report, saying they have not agreed to anything with the league. It’s a fairly vague response, but we’ll take Ramsay at his word.

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Currently, there are a total of 63 Canadian starting spots in the CFL. If the league eliminates two spots per team, the total drops to 45, taking 18 Canadians off the field. Under the current system, the number of starters would balloon to 70 once the Atlantic Schooners enter the league in a couple of years time. By having five starters instead of seven there would be 50 positions, league-wide, for Canadian players in a 10 team CFL.

Top football prospects in Edmonton for CFL Combine

Top football prospects in Edmonton for CFL Combine
Top football prospects in Edmonton for CFL Combine

Some believe dropping the number of Canadian starters from seven to five would address a supposed lack of Canadian depth while others think having more American players would improve the league’s talent level.

Another option to take into consideration is Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s so-called CFL 2.0, an initiative that aims to boost the league’s global appeal by attracting a new crop of football players to Canada from Mexico and Europe.

Ambrosie wants to establish broadcast deals with outlets in those other countries (boosting cash flow for the CFL in the process) and one way of doing so would be to open starting spots for Mexican, Swedish, Italian — you name it — players that fans in those nations can root for.

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Would the CFL and CFLPA dare take away two Canadian starting spots and designate them for ‘global’ starters? I wouldn’t blink if they did.