CFL Targets Wrong City in Moncton

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIISeptember 10, 2009

Mark Cohon, the commissioner of the Canadian Football League, was interviewed at halftime during the Labor Day game between Toronto and Hamilton. He said next year the CFL was contemplating playing a regular season game in Moncton, New Brunswick.

There is nothing wrong with playing a game there, except that—in terms of expansion—Moncton can't help the CFL.

When I wrote my first article for Bleacher Report, it was about CFL expansion in Canada. Based on population only, I divided the potential new franchises into three groups; short term, long term, and very long term.

The short term cities were Quebec, London, and Kitchener.

The long term cities were Halifax, Oshawa, Windsor, and Victoria.

Then there were the rest in the very long term, including Moncton.

Moncton was chosen because it is building a stadium for the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics. If only the cities in the first two groups showed such spirit.

Sadly, the problem with Moncton is it is still too small. Its population as of 2005 was 126,000, making it the 29th largest city in Canada. In five years, Moncton had grown by 9,000, making it the 21st-fastest growing city in Canada.

The new stadium reflects Moncton's small population. It will only have 10,000 permanent seats. The plan for the CFL game is to put an equivalent number of temporary seats, giving Moncton the same amount of seats as Montreal, the smallest stadium in the CFL.

That's no help for the CFL in terms of immediate expansion. They want stadiums of 25,000 permanent seats, minimum.

The Moncton game is good for increasing interest in the CFL in the Maritimes. There is no reason why a regular-season game can't be played there every year. But because of Moncton's small population, one game a year is all that can be managed for the immediate future.

As mentioned above, only three Canadian cities have the population and the growth rate to get awarded an expansion franchise right now. Quebec has a population of over 700,000, and Kitchener and London have populations between 450,000 and 500,000.

Football is doing well at the university level in these cities. Laval, Laurier, and Western all have outstanding football programs. Canadian football has some roots here.

All that is lacking are investors and stadiums. 

The CFL should be looking for ways to stimulate interest in these three cities.  Quebec would be a great rival for Montreal, and Kitchener and London have a natural rivalry with each other and Hamilton.

But nothing seems to be happening for the CFL in these cities. Small Moncton is the only city taking even a half-step towards getting a team.

The CFL needs to start talking to the locals in Quebec, London, and Kitchener to see about staging regular season and exhibition games, with an eye to getting a permanent franchise.

If it could be shown that there is interest in the CFL in those cities, perhaps investors will start to believe in the league and step forward.

Then the CFL will not be limited to its eight or nine-team format that seems to have been here since the beginning of its existence.