why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

The Place for BC Lion Discussion. A forum for Lions fans to talk and chat about our team.
Discussion, News, Information and Speculation regarding the BC Lions and the CFL.
Prowl, Growl and Roar!

Moderator: Team Captains

User avatar
Hambone
Hall of Famer
Posts: 6669
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 10:25 pm
Location: Living in PG and back working in Mackenzie for the next few months.

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

ZLions wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 2:42 am
I personally think that the CFL's inability to capture ethnic fans is a big reason. Honestly, I feel that the CFL didn't do enough to appeal to the new multicultural society that has grown up in and around Toronto and Vancouver in the past 30 years. I myself am an ethnic minority who was born to immigrant parents in Surrey; and while I loved the CFL growing up, none of my ethnic friends (or even Caucasian friends for that matter) shared my passion.
The reality is that as popular as gridiron football is in North America it's at best a niche sport anywhere else in the world. In terms of team sports and participation globally it lags far behind soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball, rugby and cricket once you go outside the North American continent. It's also easily the most complicated sport for a newbie to understand. Tack on the easy access the demographic we're talking about has to participate in the sports they grew up with where they came from and the challenge is immense.


You're as old as you've ever been and as young as you're ever going to be.
Murdoch
Starter
Posts: 187
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2020 2:04 pm

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Hambone wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 7:38 am
It's also easily the most complicated sport for a newbie to understand.
Friendly challenge on that call in favour of cricket as hard to understand.

I get the trying to knock the pins down and the other guy hitting the ball. Sometimes they run back and forth. Sometimes they just let the ball go. Always thought they could get away with less of a run up to the pitch. Jolly good fun though. The players are national heros.

CFL rules package has it's own set of quirks.


User avatar
cromartie
Hall of Famer
Posts: 4840
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2002 2:31 pm
Location: Cleveland, usually

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Toronto, like the rest of the Canadian markets, and most American markets, is a Class B sports market. They support the Leafs religiously, and everyone else if the circumstances are convenient and the team is winning .

This is not uncommon. A majority of sports markets across North America, and every market in Canada is essentially the same. Sports in general does not have the casual dollar spending thrall that it has had in prior generations. The Raprors were irreleviant in the years befor Vinsanity and the championship, and will be again. The Jays, once the current crop disassembled the roster, will lose whatever attendance gains they saw and settle back in their low water mark. Soccer, as it has been since the 1970s, is well attended but largely useless as a tv product. It has it's core cult following and that's it.

Compounding matters, there is no physically convenient place to put a stadium, which hurts attendance.

There was roughly a 30 year gap between Grey Cup wins, and after that they've had significant ownership turnover that made them an unstable franchise that lacked either on field or off field consistency and the chance to establish a consistent marketing plan (aside from the overarching personality dynamism of Pinball). That's damn near a two generation loss in fanbase establishment.

The ghost of John Bassett and his WFL rhetoric didn't help in the 1970s and the sons and grandsons of his disciples continue their periodic media wankfest which further degrades the situation.

Putting a stadium in the suburbs might help but wherever you go you cut yourself off from some portion of the metro. It's the reason that the vast majority of teams in most leagues returned downtown from the great suburban stadium migration of the 70s and 80s. Playing south of the Gardiner doesn't helps, as Toronto is still figuring out how to sustain development between the Waterfront and the Gardiner all these years later.

Bottom line though, in any market where your sport isn't the sport, you need a consistent winning product and consistent repeatable marketing along with a consistent repeatable community development effort and the Argos have struggled with all of that. In that sense, it's a miracle they're here at all.


User avatar
David
MVP
MVP
Posts: 8813
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2002 10:23 am
Location: Vancouver (Kitsilano)

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

I lived in Toronto from late '71 to summer '84. My Dad and I used to annually head down to Exhibition Stadium (where BMO Field now sits) to watch the Leos play. The place was a bit of a dive. Not great sightlines, and it sat right on the blustery lake with pigeons and seagulls. Still, the Argos were a top drawer club. They would pack in 30,000+ for most of the '70s to watch some bad teams and 40,000-50,000+ in the late 70's//early '80s once they expanded seating for baseball. Torontonians were rabid fans. When the Argos won the '83 Grey Cup, we could hear cars honking and people celebrating well into the night (much to my chagrin!). When they defeated the Ti-Cats in the '71 Eastern Final, thousands of fans swarmed the field.

For most of that time, Toronto was all about the Leafs and Argos (and when I say "Leafs and Argos" I'm talking a close 1 and 2), then the Leafs, Argos and Jays. It just seems really hard to conceive of how far have descended in the 30-40 years since. Almost to the point of complete irrelevancy. Sure, some of those fans (literally) died off. But where did the rest go? Their kids? Relatives? Friends? I sometimes ask myself the same question of Lions fans too, although BC is a more a "disturbing trend" to me, and not nearly as dire as the Argos who play in an ideal CFL stadium.


DH :cool:


Roar, You Lions, Roar
User avatar
Hambone
Hall of Famer
Posts: 6669
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 10:25 pm
Location: Living in PG and back working in Mackenzie for the next few months.

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

David wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 11:10 pm

For most of that time, Toronto was all about the Leafs and Argos (and when I say "Leafs and Argos" I'm talking a close 1 and 2), then the Leafs, Argos and Jays. It just seems really hard to conceive of how far have descended in the 30-40 years since. Almost to the point of complete irrelevancy. Sure, some of those fans (literally) died off. But where did the rest go? Their kids? Relatives? Friends? I sometimes ask myself the same question of Lions fans too, although BC is a more a "disturbing trend" to me, and not nearly as dire as the Argos who play in an ideal CFL stadium.


DH :cool:


I'm fortunate enough not to have to live down in Vancouver or Toronto although I'd be lying if I said I'm extremely jealous that I can't just hop a bus or Skytrain and be at the stadium a half hour after walking out my door. So much is discussed and lamented about how things aren't the way they used to be for teams like the Lions and Argos. Back in the 70s the options to take in a game were listen to it on radio, watch it on a 26" TV (if you were fortunate enough to have one that big) and only if the game was even being televised and wasn't blacked out or go to the stadium. The two biggest elephants in the room IMO are cost of living and the choices people make both with their disposable income and their recreational time.

Is it a coincidence that the two markets that struggle the most are the two most expensive markets to live in? I don't think there's any way people in Vancouver and Toronto can have the same amount of disposable cash in their jeans as folks in all other CFL cities do. Less money means more restrictions to how it can get spent.

The other factor is how people these days prefer to spend their leisure time. Anecdotally people seem far more in tune to connecting with the great outdoors and other "healthier" activities than giving up their summer weekends to sit in a stadium for 3 hours. Whistler didn't really become the Whistler it is today until the mid to late 80s. Until the opening of the Coquihalla around 1986 with the Okanagan Connector following in 1990 access to the fun and sun of the Thompson/Okanagan was restricted to mostly 2 lane highways of the Fraser Canyon or Hope-Princeton, cattle trails in comparison to today's routes. Were residents of Vancouver and the adjacent burbs as much into hiking, biking, jogging and strolling the various seawalls and trails in the lower mainland and its mountains per capita as they are today? Many of these activities are next to free and infinitely more accessible and abundant to Vancouverites than they are to potential CFL fans in any other markets. The Lions biggest enemy might be the beauty and splendor southwest BC and the islands have to offer to a society that wants to make use of it more than ever before. To me those aspects are far bigger competition for the Lions than the Whitecaps or Canucks who would not be impacted as much due to obvious weather factors.

The Lions can be as creative as they want and spend every dollar they take in on marketing and they won't be putting any more disposable income into the pockets of fans, make it any easier to get to and from the stadium or make the other options people have drifted to for their recreational time less attractive.
Last edited by Hambone on Fri May 08, 2020 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.


You're as old as you've ever been and as young as you're ever going to be.
User avatar
Sir Purrcival
Hall of Famer
Posts: 3982
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 11:48 am
Location: Comox Valley

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Tangentially I think you hit the nail on the head when it came to options for viewing in the past vs today. Broadcasts of today in many ways are superior to the in house game experience. You get a knowledgeable play by play, you get replays in High Def., a much more comfortable chair with cold beer in the fridge if you so choose. What's more, you can turn on the game 2 minutes before it starts and carry on with the rest of your day right up to and directly after or preserve it for later viewing. Or you can pause it when you need a break or to attend something else. Contrast that with the experience of having to stop whatever you are doing, drive to the game with whomever, park, take transit. Get there, line up for entrances, drinks, find your seats, wedge in if you are larger like me. Get up and down every time that idiot person who can't seem to stay in their seat for more than 5 mins at a time decides it's time for that 6th beer and 12th washroom break. With playing time, transit time, costs etc., I suspect that the atmosphere of being there live isn't enough compensation for many people.

We have morphed into a culture of immediacy. We're no longer content to take half a day to do one thing. We socialize in ways other than communal events much of the time and frankly, when I'm watching a game, I'm watching the game. I'm not there to chat and find it distracting when my mate who isn't that invested in the game keeps trying to engage me that way. I'm the first to admit, I probably am not the most pleasant to be around when watching a game especially when the Lions are sucking hind teat. I am very invested in the happenings on the field. The rest is distraction and after having been to lord knows how many games over the years, to say that all the non game stuff isn't really that interesting to me is an understatement. There are only so many dance routines that the dance team can do, the hotdogs and hamburgers are nothing special. The half time entertainment is usually a complete snore fest for me. It says something that the Superdogs are typically my favourite half time show. I don't think I am an especially cynical person. I consider myself pretty normal in most respects and so I tend to think that if a person like me, who loves the intricacies of the game can wear out on the ritual of going to a game, how is it going to be for someone who isn't all that interested in the game?

I think these problems are only magnified in larger urban centres. We are surrounded by humanity everyday, all day. During those moments of downtime, we are often looking for that space, peace, tranquility etc. etc. It is not a coincidence in my mind that we now spend much more time seeking that space through outdoor activities like hiking, skiing etc. etc. There was much less density in 1970 than now. As I grow older, I tend to prefer my softer ways and as a society we are growing older. The younger generations have been fed a diet of high glitz NFL, NHL, NBA etc. etc. and the CFL looks positively rural compared to them. Not really much of a mystery as to why the league struggles with younger audiences and the older ones are getting less inclined to put out what it takes to be a full time, dedicated in-house viewer. The way we consume sports has changed remarkably in 50 years and I think that leagues that depend on butts in the seats to make ends meet are going to struggle from time to time as a result.


Tell me how long must a fan be strong? Ans. Always.
User avatar
SammyGreene
MVP
MVP
Posts: 6982
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2002 11:52 am
Location: Ladner

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

David wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 11:10 pm
For most of that time, Toronto was all about the Leafs and Argos (and when I say "Leafs and Argos" I'm talking a close 1 and 2), then the Leafs, Argos and Jays. It just seems really hard to conceive of how far have descended in the 30-40 years since. Almost to the point of complete irrelevancy. Sure, some of those fans (literally) died off. But where did the rest go? Their kids? Relatives? Friends? I sometimes ask myself the same question of Lions fans too, although BC is a more a "disturbing trend" to me, and not nearly as dire as the Argos who play in an ideal CFL stadium.


DH :cool:
I still get angry when I look at how badly the Lions botched the momentum they had re-stablished a decade earlier with season tickets peaking at 25,000 (2007) and crowds averaging 35,000 a game that year. Alarm bells should have been going off a lot sooner with incentives like the kids season tickets when that base dipped to even the 20,000 mark. The team was still competitive through 2013 and the club was extremely fortunate it didn't pay a dime for the BC Place renovation.
But attendance kept dropping and we eventually stopped hearing what the season ticket base was other than they were making a profit thanks to selling the majority of their premium sections to season ticket holders while more and more casual fans were just watching from home.

I guess shortlived off field success has been the story of this franchise since the 1980s at least. But you now get the true sense they are starting to run out of chances.


User avatar
David
MVP
MVP
Posts: 8813
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2002 10:23 am
Location: Vancouver (Kitsilano)

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

I agree, Sammy. "Botched" is probably the right word. Some erosion is organic and bound to happen. Attendance contraction is the trend in most sports, so the club would have seen fewer people attending games regardless of taking proper measures. But I believe they hastened the decay which has turned out to be much sharper and faster than anyone would have imagined.

Fundamental to this sharp drop was raising ticket prices each year (seeing themselves as solidly competing with the Canucks on the sporting landscape) and over-estimating the impact the retractable roof would have (which turned out to be negligible other than the "grand opening" full of looky-loos). The move to Empire Fields served as a jumping-off point for many season ticket holders, then we have seen mostly mediocre teams since the 2011 Grey Cup.

My buddy mentioned last week that 2008-2009 was that magical period when his teenage kids were into going to Lions' games. He could bring them to sit among the 33,000-35,0000 each game, and then the kids would go out somewhere downtown afterwards with their friends.


DH :cool:


Roar, You Lions, Roar
Huge Talent
Starter
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:12 pm

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Back to the marketing fundamentals: the 4 Ps

Product: the product is very good. Exciting, athletic, 2nd best football league in the world.

Price: this can be debated. A family of 4 has to spend around $300 to $500 for a game, factoring in parking and food and depending on seats. That's a lot. There are some recent kids deals here in Vancouver, so maybe lowering the floor price to around $200 done frugally. That's an improvement.

Place: well the cities which have teams are pretty obvious. The locations, I haven't heard of there being issues. Commuting in Vancouver has gotten harder, and perhaps in Toronto as well.

Promotion:

Well, this is where I place most of the blame. They have failed to sell the CFL for around 30 years now. That's why the demographic is old and attendance dwindling.

Look, you've got a great product with tremendous history. It's a Canadian staple. Blaming immigration? That's an excuse. Immigrants want to do "Canadian stuff." The NHL is doing just fine, and last I checked there isn't a lot of hockey in China, India, Iran, etc.

The CFL has nobody to blame but themselves for a failure to market their product effectively. The two biggest markets have the lowest crowds. Fail.

I really believe they need to celebrate the leagues history more, and to incorporate Canada's history into that. Then there are the players. Highlight them as well. Why aren't Mike Reilly's and Bryan Burnham's mugs appearing on billboards, ads, the side of BC place, etc. TO is probably just as negligent. Does the league not know what they are selling? Do they not realize they have to hustle. Life is a hustle. Successful people are hustlers.


User avatar
David
MVP
MVP
Posts: 8813
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2002 10:23 am
Location: Vancouver (Kitsilano)

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Huge Talent wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 7:01 pm

Promotion:

Well, this is where I place most of the blame. They have failed to sell the CFL for around 30 years now. That's why the demographic is old and attendance dwindling.

Look, you've got a great product with tremendous history. It's a Canadian staple. Blaming immigration? That's an excuse. Immigrants want to do "Canadian stuff." The NHL is doing just fine, and last I checked there isn't a lot of hockey in China, India, Iran, etc.

The CFL has nobody to blame but themselves for a failure to market their product effectively. The two biggest markets have the lowest crowds. Fail.

I really believe they need to celebrate the leagues history more, and to incorporate Canada's history into that. Then there are the players. Highlight them as well. Why aren't Mike Reilly's and Bryan Burnham's mugs appearing on billboards, ads, the side of BC place, etc. TO is probably just as negligent. Does the league not know what they are selling? Do they not realize they have to hustle. Life is a hustle. Successful people are hustlers.
I agree, but this is not just a Lions problem, it is a league problem. When Ambrosie came on board, he said he was going to put the focus on these "world-class athletes" and raise their prominence. In his 3 years as Commissioner, he has really done nothing in this area (unfortunately, more idle chatter from the CFL's top man). Maybe they think they are giving the CFLPA too much leverage if they do this??

But you're right. Locally, Bryan Burnham's catches should be given as much exposure as possible. Over and over. If I was running the Marketing Department, I would be focussing on Burnham's world-class catching ability. I'd call it "Bend It Like Burnham" since he contorts his body so many ways to make impossible catches. :wink: I'd feature it on Social Media, in TV commercials, digital billboards etc.

DH :cool:


Roar, You Lions, Roar
User avatar
KnowItAll
Hall of Famer
Posts: 7324
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2004 6:32 pm
Location: Delta

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Huge Talent wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 7:01 pm

Look, you've got a great product with tremendous history. It's a Canadian staple. Blaming immigration? That's an excuse. Immigrants want to do "Canadian stuff." The NHL is doing just fine, and last I checked there isn't a lot of hockey in China, India, Iran, etc.
Difference is that there are a lot more immigrants that have already been exposed to hockey in other countries. Also that NHL is also mostly in USA.


Every day that passes is one you can't get back
User avatar
Belize City Lion
Hall of Famer
Posts: 3471
Joined: Sun Oct 17, 2004 1:39 pm
Location: Belize City, Belize

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

I know there is a lot of preference to get the season started earlier in June to avoid playing too late into November, but I'd kick off the CFL season on the Canada Day Weekend every year. With pre-game pancake breakfast or BBQ and live music, a kids carnival of some sort, and a half time ceremony to swear in new citizens (but something a bit more hype than the typical solemn ceremony). A post game concert and fireworks. I'd wrap the flag all over the CFL. In my opinion one big change in Canadian society since the start of this century is that Canadians are much more visible with their patriotism.


Huge Talent
Starter
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:12 pm

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

There's a tremendous marketing partnership opportunity here. That is, to market Canadian pride and the CFL. America and the NFL are masterful at this. Why can't we do it?


User avatar
B.C.FAN
MVP
MVP
Posts: 11070
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 10:28 pm

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Belize City Lion wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 7:20 pm
I know there is a lot of preference to get the season started earlier in June to avoid playing too late into November, but I'd kick off the CFL season on the Canada Day Weekend every year. With pre-game pancake breakfast or BBQ and live music, a kids carnival of some sort, and a half time ceremony to swear in new citizens (but something a bit more hype than the typical solemn ceremony). A post game concert and fireworks. I'd wrap the flag all over the CFL. In my opinion one big change in Canadian society since the start of this century is that Canadians are much more visible with their patriotism.
:whs:
Unfortunately the introduction of a third bye week and Randy Ambrosie’s desire to appease Prairie fans who don’t like attending cold-weather playoff games has pushed the start of the regular season back into June where it can easily get lost. Canada Day is the purrfect opportunity to celebrate the long history of the Canadian game.


"I think [Fred Fateri] was like a lot of people who watch football, hockey or any professional sport on television. They sit there and think they could coach better than the professional. Some people really think that." - Bob Ackles, The Water Boy
Huge Talent
Starter
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:12 pm

Re: why is CFL interest so tepid in toronto?

Yeah what's up with 3 bye weeks? The schedule always looks so porous now. Seems like a couple times per season there's a month between home games.

Canada Day kick off... I like that.


Post Reply