Frequently Asked Questions about The League

Before a team may terminate a player (release the player from the standard player contract), they must allow other teams to claim the player at the current contract. This process is called waivers. If a player clears waivers (is not claimed by another team) he is released and becomes a free agent. There are two types of waivers, with recall and without recall. With recall allows the team waiving the player to recall the player if claimed by any other club. Full details of the waiver rules (albeit outdated in some areas) can be found in the CFL By-laws, Section 4.

The waiver priority order is the order which teams are given the opportunity to claim a player. It is established based on the finish order from the previous season with the Grey Cup Champion having the least priority and the other club competing in the Grey Cup game have second least priority with the remaining teams ordered by their reverse order of finish, using the tie breaking procedures if necessary. After the first third of the season (all teams have played six games) and the second third of the season (all teams have played twelve games), the priority order changes to the current reverse order of the teams, using the tie breaking procedure if necessary.

From midnight after the Grey Cup game until midnight, May 15th, the waiver period shall not be less than seven days, not less than 48 hours from May 15th until the date final rosters must be set and not less than 24 hours from the date final rosters are set until the date of the Grey Cup.

The Grey Cup host is determined by a bid process. This is similar to the bid process for cities to host a Brier, World Junior Hockey Championships, etc. or even Olympics, though the bid will be initiated by the member club in cooperation with the host city. Once the Grey Cup is awarded, a Grey Cup organizing committee and company will be setup to conduct the Grey Cup festival and game planning and business.

Teams/cities submit bids to the CFL to host the championship game and the prior week of festivities. A 2016 report out of Hamilton indicates the CFL has formalized this process, establishing criteria to compare bids. The host city is awarded the Grey Cup by a vote of the board of governors. The game is usually awarded about 15-18 months prior to the date to allow for planning, though special events may be award as much as 2+ years in advance. There is an attempt to rotate the game between all member cities of the league, however all bids must guarantee certain revenue to the league. Teams without the facility capabilities to guarantee the necessary revenue will refrain from bidding, such as Hamilton from 1997 to 2014, and presently Montreal who have issues with Olympic Stadium being a viable site if there is snowfall. Hosting the Grey Cup has been used as an incentive to cities/owners seeking franchises (will host a Grey Cup in x years after franchise takes field) or cities building/expanding stadiums (bids to host x Grey Cups in 10 years after stadium is constructed will be strongly considered).

If multiple cities bid for any specific year, revenue, market saturation (how long since they've last held the event) and special circumstances will be considered, likely in that order. If only a single city bids, but low balls their revenue due to lack of competition, the league could defer a decision, asking for other bids. Lack of being named a Grey Cup host is only due to not bidding or having an unacceptable bid. This is capitalism, where the bid that guarantees the most revenue to the league wins, not socialism, where everyone gets a turn, even if they can only offer break-even prospects.

The home team for the Grey Cup game is determined by the division of the host. When a Western Division city hosts the game, the Western Champion is the home team, when an Eastern Division city hosts the game, the Eastern Champion is the home team. This provides for who is the home and away for any regulations that specify the home or visiting team and for things like dressing rooms, etc. I believe this may be a change in policy that occurred sometime since 2000 from a policy of each division be considered the home team in alternating years. The home team for the championship does not seem to specified in the league constitution, by-laws or regulations. If anyone can get confirmation of a change, please let me know.

Since 1973 six teams have qualified for post-season play in the CFL, three in each division, and played single game semi-finals/finals. The only exception to this was in 1986 when four teams in the West division qualified and two qualified in the East as explained in the article Crossover Blues and 1994 and 1995 during the expanded CFL years. Prior to 1973 it was common for Conference finals to be best of three or two-game, total point affairs.

In the first round of the playoffs, the first place team in each division gets a bye week. The second place team then hosts the third place team in the division semi-finals, unless the crossover rule is in effect (see below). The winner of the semi-finals travel to play the first place division finisher in the division finals. The winners of the division finals face-off against each other for the national championship in the Grey Cup game, whose location is determined at least a year prior.

The CFL playoffs are explained visually in a CFL Playoff Bracket Razzle Dazzle document.

The current crossover rule has been in place since 19971, a slightly modified version of the rule introduced in 19962. The crossover rule, as outlined in Article XII 12.01 of the CFL Constitution, provides for the fourth place team in a division with more points than the third place team in the other Division to replace the third place team in the other division's semi-final game.

The crossover rule has been in effect nine times.

Team Year Crossed to Division Result
BC 1997 East Lost East Semi-Final 35-45
SSK 2002 East Lost East Semi-Final 12-24
BC 2003 East Lost East Semi-Final 7-28
SSK 2005 East Lost East Semi-Final 14-30
EDM 2008 East Lost East Final 26-36
BC 2009 East Lost East Final 18-56
EDM 2012 East Lost East Semi-Final 26-42
BC 2014 East Lost East Semi-Final 50-17
EDM 2016 East Lost East Final 35-23
Crossover Team Record
Wins Losses Points For Points Against
3 9 238 394

12.01 The Board of Governors shall establish the format of the Divisional Championship Games including the basis on which the sites, dates, starting times and ticket prices are determined. The playoff arrangement in each division shall be as follows:

  1. the third place team in each Division shall play in the semi-final game at the home of the second place team in that Division.
  2. the semi-final winner shall play in the Divisional Championship Game at the home of the first place team in that Division.

Notwithstanding paragraph (a), in the event that at the conclusion of the regular season schedule the fourth place team in one Division has a higher points standing than the third place team in the other Division, such fourth place team shall replace the said third place team in the other Division semi final game.

The top three teams in each Division will qualify for post-season play. However, if the fourth place finisher in either division has a higher point total than the third-place finisher in the other division, then that team will qualify for post-season play.

The last time a two-game, total-point series was used in the CFL was in 1986. This was the result of a new rule introduced to reward the best teams across the league with playoff spots. If a 4th place team in one division had a better record than the 3rd place team in another division, the playoff format switched from the traditional three teams in each division playoff format to four teams in the better division and two teams in the other division. The two-team division would playoff in a two-game, total point series over two weeks while the four team division would play 4 vs 1, 3 vs 2 semi-finals with the winners meeting in the division championship. This playoff format was in use for only the one year it was in effect. It was repealed in 1987 with the demise of the Montreal Alouettes.

The two-game, total point series was last used in 1972 by the Eastern Conference for the Conference Final. It was used by the Eastern Conference/IRFU Final from 1956 to 1972. It was also used prior to 1955, with 1952's IRFU Final a three-game affair after the series was tied 33-33 after two games. A two-game playoff was also used for the 1951 IRFU Semi-Final.

The Western Conference/WIFU held two-game, total point series for their Semi-Finals from 1952 to 1964.

The best-of-three playoff series was used by the Western Conference/WIFU Final from 1950 to 1971. Series that required three games were normally played over a span of seven or eight days with the first game at the lower finisher on a Saturday and the final two games at the higher finisher on the following Wednesday and, if necessary, the next Saturday.

Prior to 1973 and even more so prior to 1955 the CFL playoffs were a non-standard mixture of formats, participants and football unions. For a complete picture of the early history of football and Grey Cup before the CFL, I suggest you pick up a copy of the CFL's Facts, Figures and Records or one of many books on the early days of Canadian football and the Grey Cup.

The CFL addresses this question in their FAQ. The CFL draws most of its officials from the CIS level.

There is a large need for football officials in Canada, starting at the grass roots level. If you have an interest in becoming a football official and don't believe you should start at the professional level, then get involved at the minor football or high school football level before moving up into Junior and CIS football.

If you are going to be a football official, you need to know the rulebook, and the rule differences between the different levels of football. Work hard and you may make it as a CFL official and officiate 500 games like Bud Steen, Don Ellis or Jake Ireland.

More information can be found on the Canadian Football Officials Association website and the Canadian Professional Football Officials Association.

Starting in 2011, teams are required to purchase the rights to playoff games from the league for an apparent $100,000 (thanks Jacquie). (Last available figure, likely increased since 2011). Prior to 2011, teams had the option of purchasing the rights to playoff games from the league for a specific dollar amount and keep all profit (or incur any loss), or let the expenses/revenue be shared at the league level.

Purchasing the game from the league has a cost of $100,000 plus assuming all expenses for the game, specifically both team's playoff shares and the visiting team's travel expenses (flights and hotel) as well as marketing costs. The host team's profit/loss is determined after all their expenses are paid against their ticket, concession and other ancillary revenue received from the game.

Winnipeg paid $4.3 million to the league for the right to host the 2015 Grey Cup.

History

Prior to 2011, if a team chose not to purchase a playoff game, the gate was split equally among all teams in the league and expenses were paid by the league. Without a stake in the game, franchises were more tempted to spend less promoting the game, even when a smaller crowd affected their home field advantage. We assume the CFL closed this embarrasing loophole for this reason.

Based on Tiger-Cat President Scott Mitchell's comments on Prime Time Sports Nov. 4, 2010 (about 3:12 in, 11:41 5.4MB) it appeared the cost at that time to hold a semi-final game was in the $900,000 range (north of $750,000, close to seven figures). Assuming this includes the playoff shares for two teams (50 x 2 x $3,300 = $330,000) and travel expenses ($150,000) this would indicate additional expenses of $300,000 - $450,000 for the game, including a $100,000 guarantee to the league.

This is similar to the cost of $100,000 reported just a few years earlier. Teams had tight timelines and complicated decisions to make regarding purchasing a playoff game from the league. Based on Mitchell's comments, it appeared in the last few years the option existed that teams needed to provide notice to the league of their intentions before it was even clear whether they would host a game or who their opponent may be.

After requiring $3 million from Grey Cup host committees the many years (dating back to mid or early 1990s), the guaranteed revenue for the Grey Cup game has increased over the last decade. For the 2013 101st Grey Cup, the host Saskatchewan Roughriders paid $3.78 million to the league for the game and recorded $3.36 million in game operation expenses (of which approx. $1.25 million would have been for player bonuses). It has been long believed teams paid a $3 million fee to the league for the right to host the Grey Cup game (2009 - $3 million, 2008 - $3.5 million, 2007 - $3-$4 million, 2006 - $3 million, 2004 - $3 million). Mitchell's comments indicate it was north of $3 million in 2010. Terry Jones indicates the Eskimos paid $3.6 million for the 2010 Grey Cup and the 2012 Grey Cup may have cost as much as $4-5 million.

The record for overtime games in the CFL regular season is eight (8), which occurred in 1992 and 2002. Two other seasons (1991, 2000) had seven games go into overtime. Interestingly, all of those years no overtime games ended in ties. Comparatively, the first three regular season overtime games in the CFL in 1986 and 1987 decided nothing and ended in ties.

Ten playoff or Grey Cup games have gone to overtime (1 each in 1957, 1961, 1973, 1984, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013), with the Grey Cup overtime games occurring in 1961, 2005 and 2016.

The number of regular season overtime games since 1986 when overtime was introduced are listed below. Years not listed did not have any overtime games. The number of games that finished in a tie after overtime are also listed.


Year
Number of Games
to go into Overtime
Number of OT Games
ending in a Tie

Year
Number of Games
to go into Overtime
Number of OT Games
ending in a Tie
198622200072
198711200130
198810200280
198920200340
199031200441
199170200510
199280200610
199310200742
199441200931
199560201050
199620201210
199710201310
199831201410
199930201550

The CFL drug policy is defined by the CFL/CFLPA Policy to Prevent the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs, which was revamped by an agreement between the parties prior to the 2016 season.

... [T]he number of tests will be equal to 100 per cent of the players in the league. Testing is administered on a random basis, so it is possible some players will be tested more than once, and a small number may not be tested.

Players who test positive will face a two game suspension for a first doping violation, a nine game suspension for a second violation, a one year suspension for a third violation, and a lifetime ban for a fourth violation.

Violations will be publicly disclosed once all appeals have been exhausted.

History

The first policy was bargained in the 2010 CBA. A copy of the policy can be found on the CBA page. The drug policy focuses on performance enhancing drugs. A list of the CFL's 132 prohibited performance enhancing drugs in the original 2010 policy can be found in Appendix D of the policy.

Player agents, or contract advisors in the CFLPA parlance starting in 2014, must pass a certification exam, register and pay annual dues to the CFLPA in order to represent CFL players as agents or financial advisors. Contract Advisors must achieve a score of 75% or greater on the examination in order to be considered for registration with the CFLPA. Per the 2012 renewal notice (removed from home page, no direct link available to notice), agent renewal dues were $330.39 and initial agent dues were $706.25 including taxes.

Player agents registered with the CFLPA and allowed to represent CFL players have their fee guidelines set by the CFLPA in a standard player/agent contract. The fee structure defines an maximum percentage for agent compensation only on the portion of salary above the standard minimum contract value. It is believed this structure is 7% for the first year, 4% for the second year and 2% for any third year of the contract. In 2012, the CFLPA rejected a proposal to change the structure to a flat fee of 3% of the contracts value annually.

Please see the CFLPA site for a list of registered contract advisors and financial advisors or contact the CFLPA for full requirements on becoming a contract advisor.

Like anything, the value of a CFL franchise is subjective and varies from day-to-day based on what anyone interested in purchasing is willing to pay. That said, based on known information in 2013 and standard business valuation formulas CFL franchises have a value of approximately $4 million for liquidation purposes and $8 - $12 million for on-going operation purposes. These values fluctuate with the fortunes of an individual team, the league and overall economy.

The expansion fee for the last expansion franchise awarded in 2008, the Ottawa RedBlacks who took to the field in 2014, was $7 million. The expansion fee for the Ottawa Renegades franchise awarded in 2001 was reportedly approximately $4.5 to $5 million. It is speculated/estimated the expansion fee for the next franchise will be in the $9 to $10 million range.

The value of the Canadian Football League is really the sum of its parts. The league itself has few assets that don't derive from the member clubs. Based on the value of the clubs, the CFL is likely worth $100 to $120 million on paper. It is sometimes stated the CFL is a $200 million business as an ongoing concern.

The league's financial statements are not available as it is a private entity created to conduct business for the member clubs. Financial statements for publicly owned franchises are readily available and easy to find. They shed some light on the revenue and expenses associated with operating a CFL franchise.

Information presented here is made on a best effort from known information subject to my interpretation and estimates. It should not be referenced as fact, but is "for entertainment purposes only". If the value of a team or league affects your enjoyment of watching the game, please make up what ever numbers satisfy yourself.