In 2014 the CFL returns to Ottawa, boosting the league total to 9 teams. Fans like to dream up expansion scenarios, with Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Victoria BC being the oft-mentioned candidates. Realistically speaking it seems that the nine current franchises are about all this country can muster, and it looks to be that way for the foreseeable future.
While 9 teams is great, 10 would be optimal for balanced divisions, schedule, and playoff odds. So how can the CFL grow to 10 teams? It’s simple:
Create a team that has no city to call home.
Hear me out: this team would be 100% nomadic, playing every game on the road, even their “home” games. Players would be living out of their suitcases all season. The rest of the teams in the league benefit by having more home games, a balanced schedule, even divisions, etc..
Here is the scenario I’ve envisioned:
Such a team would be a Western Division club, its office and training center would be situated in Calgary. This is because the city is centrally-located in the west and is a transportation hub.
While some people would regard this as a second Calgary team, it would not officially be labeled as such. The team name would be neutral, representing Western Canada in some form. The team name would be something along the lines of “The Rocky Mountain Sasquatches” or “Western Buffaloes” or “The Mounties” to name a few examples. I’ll call this team the Mounties from here on out.
Every game would be on the road, even their playoff games. Their scheduled opponent, be it home or away, would always host the game. If the Mounties develop a large enough fanbase, they could start hosting neutral-site games (e.g. hosting Edmonton while playing in Regina or Montreal), but that would be years away.
The Mounties would operate with a different economic model compared to the other 9 teams. They would get a smaller slice of TV revenues, because they aren’t bringing any new TV markets into the fold. They would also have to share a small portion of their “home” game revenues ($ generated from tickets, food, parking, etc.) with the host team.
On the upside the team would not have to market itself. It wouldn’t need to hire cheerleaders or vendors or stadium staff. They also don’t have to worry about operating a stadium. Travel costs for their “home” games could be subsidized by the “visiting” teams (seeing as they’re being saved a trip). Overall, this team would have smaller operating costs compared to other CFL teams.
Merchandise would be key for this team. If they were able to forge a cool brand (Mounties or Direwolves or whatever), they could sell very well – perhaps more than other CFL teams – because they are not anchored to a city. This brand could even have appeal to those in the USA and overseas.
Given the unusual economic circumstances for this team, I feel it would warrant a smaller expansion fee from the CFL. I’m no economist, but I feel this team could be financially viable from the start.
The other 9 teams would love the Mounties. More home dates for everyone, balanced schedule, even divisions, and so on. Fans would love the variety of a 10-team league and the underdog nature of a team without a home. I’d like to think folks who don’t live in a CFL city would adopt the Mounties as well.
There would probably be some concern for players having to play on the road all season long, but in this scenario they would be in Calgary five days a week, with a few games there every year, so it wouldn’t be too taxing in my opinion.
What do you think? Would a nomadic team work in the CFL?