Football Guy

Published on October 6, 2014 11:22 PM by dbo.

Glen Suitor says the next CFL Commissioner needs to be a football guy. Then he lists some football-related points as to why a football guy stepping into the office would be the right person to help get them done.

Now let’s be clear, I love Glen Suitor. I even understand what he is trying to say in his article. I think he raises a number of good initiatives that should be examined by the league. Equating them to a football guy, though, and insinuating that Mark Cohon failed to implement these because he was too busy with Ottawa and new stadiums is wrong. There are no low hanging fruit here, just pie in the sky ideas that reflect a lack of business constraints. The real commissioner will be working within the economics of the CFL.

  • Pension for coaches
    • This is a member club initiative, not a commissioner initiative. A commissioner can argue for it at every board meeting, but if the clubs won’t vote for it, it will never occur.
    • Who pays for this?
    • Head coaches are contractors and are paid well. Like all contractors, they can put aside for their own retirement. They choose coaching as a line of work, aware of the hours and effects on their lives and families. If fired, their contracts are honoured or bought out if mutually agreed to. If they cannot find employment as a coach again, they need to find employment in another line of work just like anyone.
    • Assistant coaches, especially lifelong ones, deserve some income stability, however their conditions are improving. If anything, a pension should be provided to those that toiled coaching in this league the past 30 years, but there is little option for that. Today, without any restrictions, teams freely spend on coaching staffs, in number of personnel and salaries.
    • If you want to talk about a union or coaches association to standardize the treatment and benefits available to coaches, that is different.
  • Full time officials
    • Not a commissioner issue. There is a Director of Officiating that is responsible for this and should be bringing a business case for such a change forward if viable.
    • I’ve spoken about this before. When positioned that it is all upside and has no costs, it looks great.
    • An increase of 5 to 10 times the compensation for each official, once anyone sees an increase in budget of around $5 million by my estimate, no club will agree to forgo $500,000 annually in league revenue to make the officials full time for no perceivable benefit.
    • Officials don’t have other jobs in the offseason, they have careers year round in the fields they have chosen, like lawyers and business owners.
    • Yes, officials deserve an increase, but there is no need to spend on them unnecessarily for no benefit in future increased revenues.
  • Media policy and press conference consistency
    • The commissioner delegates, doesn’t he? Even with a vacant commissioner office, this should be able to arranged by the Communications department.
    • If club stubbornness is the issue, the commissioner cannot correct without more powers granted to him, which the clubs have be reluctant to do as they all like to to it their own way (the only organization where there are nine right ways to do something).
  • Practice policy
    • Really, you need a football guy commissioner to implement this? If their can’t be agreement amongst the clubs (largely because coaches and GM’s don’t like be dictated what they can and can’t do), how can a commissioner help?
  • Player discipline protocol
    • Does a commissioner have to instruct this department how to improve? All departments should be looking for ways they can continuously improve, seeking feedback from their clients, the media, member clubs, players and fans.
  • Next CBA negotiation
    • The commissioner has a very small role (the public face of the league) in CBA negotiations. The Player Relations Committee, representing the clubs, performs the negotiations with legal help from the league. Being a football guy won’t help the reception in the CFLPA when the commissioner is seen as on the business side looking to exploit players for the minimum amount they can get away with.
  • Broadcast relations
    • At this point I think we are overtaxing the commissioner. The Communications and Broadcast department should have more expertise and new ideas in this area, not a football guy commissioner.
  • Amateur football
    • Yes, this is a commissioner role as the face and driver behind such an initiative.

The commissioner has little ability to change league structure, start projects or spend money without board approval. No matter how charming and charismatic a football guy commissioner is, initiatives that take money out of the league distribution to clubs with no direct ties to growth in revenues will not pass. This was evident in the past 5 years, when initiatives to implement instant replay, command centre, and other modernizing projects were met with complaints that every time the league generated more revenue, they spent it and the clubs never saw any of the growth.

I expect the next commissioner will face the same struggles of no consensus amongst clubs on how to consistently do business as others in that role have faced. “Things don’t work that way in our city.” “We’ve been doing it our way for years.” “Our guy doesn’t do it that way.” Without the clubs succeeding some control to league defined standards for business operations (press conferences, practice policy, etc.), the commissioner will have little clout to force change, just like his predecessors. The clubs need to understand, like other business franchises, consistency in the way things are done brings efficiency and familiarity. Succeeding a little control on some operations will benefit all.

Yes, a person with football knowledge is important for the role, just like companies looking for an executive leader will favour people from the same industry. But like Pepsi is no longer just a beverage company, but a multi-national with investments in different food and beverage holdings which requires a broader knowledge, the CFL is in the sports entertainment business, which requires knowledge of sports, broadcasting, live events, sponsorships and collective bargaining. A former player or coach doesn’t have these broad exposures without some experience in business. Look at the commissioners of the other major league sports, they all have strong business backgrounds.

The position of commissioner is not a token position, but neither is it hands on. I believe the traits needed for the role are being immediately known and respected in the Canadian business, media and advertising world, projecting a confident and well spoken demeanour externally, and surrounds themselves with people who can lead who surround themselves with people who can do. Internally he motivates employees to work towards the common goal of the league, to continuously improve, not stand still and always question how they can improve.

So there may be reasons why the CFL needs a football guy for commissioner, but those listed projects are not it. They are great ideas for a separate article, but the traits for the next commissioner go beyond being a football guy. Now if you want to throw some names out there, that is a different debate.


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Football Guy was published on October 6, 2014 11:22 PM by dbo.

1,228 words.

This article is categorized under League and tagged with commissioner.

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