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.
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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