Unless St. Louis want's to wait another 20 years for the NFL to grant us another team (as LA did), the CFL is our best option to have Professional Football in St. Louis. So, do we waste our time begging the NFL for the next 2 decades (or more) or do we get creative, and strategic, and develop a football franchise that is uniquely St. Louis?
An exhibition game is a feasible step. It's been done before in the US.
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As a CFL fan from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I feel for your loss of your team, but there are several hurdles that need to be jumped before the League Can expand to the US again.
Hurdle #1: The CFL has a Canadian Content rule for players. Currently a CFL game day roster must consist of a minimum of 21 National Player (Canadian) a maximum of 20 International Players (Non-Canadian) and 3 QBs (No restriction, don't count to either total and 2 reserve (players paid but can't play) for a total of 46 players. In addition to those rules a team must start 7 National minimum.
This rule has a few issues. I believe that it is illegal in the US. It would stretch an already thin Canadian development system even further to implement on US teams. If US teams would be able to play without this rule, they would have a competitive advantage due to a larger pool of players to choose from. If the league would remove this rule, the fear is that the Canadian football development system would be negatively affected to a large degree.
Hurdle #2: CFL teams stadium requirements are quite different from NFL teams or a large number of college teams. The field is quite a bit larger, meaning it won't fit into some stadiums without compromising the field. CFL teams also require a far smaller stadium than NFL teams due to a much smaller draw and marketing budget. Placing a team in a large stadium has been a mistake in many markets due to a lessening of the game day experience compared to an appropriately sized venue. This one is not a major hurdle in my eyes though as US cities seem to spend money on stadiums more freely than Canadian cities.
Personally, I encourage attempts to convince the league to think about expanding into the US again. The addition of more teams would increase the exposure of the league, helping it thrive. I am also not a huge fan of the Canadian Content Rules and wouldn't be sad about them leaving, but I understand why they exist at this time. I encourage everyone to read more about the previous US expansion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Football_League_in_the_Unite...
I don't think the stadium would be that big of an issue in St. Louis. Some relatively minor renovations to the ex-Edward Jones Dome would probably make an area big enough to accommodate a Canadian playing field, which as a reminder for our American friends is:
110 yards long (so centre field is the 55 yard line instead of the 50)
20 yard end zones
63 yards wide
One thing that any serious expansion bid would need to understand is: it won't be free.
There was a time when you could get a CFL franchise in exchange for some coffee mugs and a steak knife set but those days are long gone. Ottawa's expansion fee was $7 million (Canadian) so an educated guess would be that you are looking at $10 million or so (US) just for the franchise fees.
Beyond that, from an operational standpoint CFL teams run on a budget of $15 - $20million (Canadian) which is roughly $11 - $14 million (US). 2016 salary cap for players is $5.1 million (Canadian) or about $3.6 million (US).
That might sound like peanuts compared to the mighty NFL, and in comparison it is....but in the real world it's really hard to run a pro football team that is not in the NFL and generate that kind of revenue. Your ownership would need to be well capitalized. One big problem with the 1990s CFL USA expansion was that teams were running on fumes financially. The league was desperate for the expansion money then so they accepted that....there is no way they would ever even consider it now.
Generally speaking you would need to sell 15,000 - 20,000 season tickets and generate crowds in the 30,000 - 35,000 range to be financially viable. Again compared to what you're used to in the NFL that doesn't sound like much but it's no gimme to get there.
CFL plays a lot of games on Fridays and Saturdays so from a marketing perspective you have to be able to deal with that when high school and college season rolls around.
The biggest thing though is simply the skepticism that a CFL team would last long term in St. Louis. When the NFL returned to Baltimore the city forget the Stallions faster than you can say "Mayflower moving trucks". CFL fans don't want to upend the league again for a here today/gone tomorrow American franchise.
If a local TV deal can be secured similar to the TSN deal in Canada, it would lower the crowd threshold down to the 22,000-25,000 range, but yes a strong ownership group would need to be in place long before the CFL would even look at any US location again. Some of the Shenanigans that took place in the previous CFL USA experiment were both comical and criminal.
That is a very interesting read. My take on it is not that US expansion can't work. It could under different circumstances. The 1990s US expansion failed, in part, because it was done for the wrong reason: to mitigate financial problems created by the loss of a lucrative beer contract. The league appears to be in much better financial shape now. Another problem is that the Canadian field doesn't fit well into American football stadiums. The rise of soccer creates a new opportunity. The field size and capacity of MLS stadiums is more in line with CFL dimensions (FC Toronto and the Argonauts are going to share a stadium) and attendance figures (29,000 CFL average). The possibility of an MLS team coming to STL is looking very promising, which could create an opportunity for CFL team here to share a stadium. Other cities with MLS teams and no NFL team might also work (Salt Lake and Orlando, for example).
Another thing that I got from the Wiki read is that it isn't likely that we would be able to keep the name St. Louis Rams. The CFL Colts had to change their name.
Another potential snag is the game itself. Differences between the American and Canadian games, like 3 downs) may not be well received here.
You're 100% right STL would have to use a different name. The NFL would never allow a "St. Louis CFL Rams" team to take the field.
Soccer fields are wide enough to accommodate a CFL but not long enough. BMO Field in Toronto had to be substantially modified to make a CFL field work and even then, it's a bit of an oddball (the field has only 17 yard end zones instead of 20 and one end zone is half natural grass and half artificial turf)
About the Canadian rules, it is definitely true that American fans have to be sold on the differences, especially 3 downs. That one would be non-negotiable so either fans of an aspiring American CFL franchise would have to embrace 3 down football or just live without pro football other than the NFL on TV.
I have to admit that it took a while to get used to 3 downs, but it's the differences that keep me watching the CFL game.
Interesting idea. The failed American expansion of the 90's temporarily saved the CFL by injecting much needed cash. So much was done wrong but in the case of Baltimore the NFL took notice and they made sure a team was placed there. The league wants another team in the Eastern Division but new Canadian markets in the east are not ready. Also the question of ownership of the BC Lions will eventually need to be dealt with as Braley recently sold his ownership of Argos and wishes to sell his remaining team as well. Yes 1 owner owned 2 teams and before that he owned the TigerCats. in the mean time watch the CFL on tv and go to games wherever you can. Show up in big groups let the league know with a fans voice what St. Louis Football fans want.
That being said the right owner, a renovated dome to fit CFL standards, and no major changes to CFL rules ( Canadian content rule for american teams would need to be negotiated) i say hey why not put a bid together and see where it goes. Want a small taste of the CFL i suggest watching the 101st Grey Cup where my Roughriders beat the TigerCats. 45k people,hometown team winning, place went just nuts more then usual.
I went to my first CFL game last fall in Hamilton. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It was as good an experience as any NFL or NCAA game I've been too.
I watched that game. It was exciting. Hopefully the Riders can turn the ship around.