The Canadian Football League and XFL have ended discussions on a potential collaboration, with the three-down league now focussing on its upcoming 2021 season. The XFL, meanwhile, is now looking at a 2023 start-up under its new ownership group that includes Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
In the end, Winnipeg Blue Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller now believes the CFL is positioned well to regroup and grow its business after losing the 2020 season to the pandemic.
“We have a very proud, rich tradition in the CFL. We’re growing that and we’re looking forward to exposing that to even more Canadians as we get into this season,” said Miller. “People are going to want to be a part of the CFL and we’re going to see that this year. Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and it was all taken away from all of us through COVID. I look forward for us to get back in front of our fans again.”
The CFL and XFL began discussions in March on a potential partnership to grow football. Miller said the push to have those discussions was not pandemic-related our spawned by the CFL’s need to grow revenue. He also said the decision to move away from those talks was not related to the recent passing of the single-game sports betting act, which could be very lucrative to sports teams in this country.
“It was simply an opportunity that was important to explore and we did,” said Miller. “We had great dialogue. They have great respect for the CFL and we do for the people that have taken over the XFL. It had nothing to do with the pandemic. It was an opportunity to explore what it would look like and was there any sort of alignment we could get to. We were sharing ideas and learning about each other. Both leagues now have moved forward. We’re playing this year and they’ll start in 2023.”
Miller said the club heard from Bombers fans who were on both sides of the discussion – those who wanted to keep the league as it is and protect the uniqueness of the game and those who were open to the idea of a collaboration, or even a merger.
“We heard both sides… our fans were quite happy to share their thoughts on this and there was a mixture across the board,” he said. “In the end, it gave us a good opportunity to take a look at our business and what we’re doing. Every business model has its challenges. We do. We’d been working on addressing those prior to the XFL discussions, during the XFL discussions and we’ll continue do that as a league and as teams.
“Any time you spend reflecting on your business and working on your business is a good thing. That’s what we did through this process and I think the CFL is going to come out of this stronger.”