Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cohon Has Message For Ottawa Citizens

As you know, the CFL wants to get back into Ottawa and have handed a conditional franchise out. The problem now is there is a battle about whether Jeff Hunt will get a renovated Frank Clair Stadium from city council or if council will give permission for Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to build a soccer stadium. Its one or the other prompting commissioner Marc Cohon to deliver this today.

To the people of Ottawa:

You and your elected representatives are engaged in an important discussion. It revolves around a new sports stadium, where it should be located, and who should play there. But it's really much bigger than that. This is about building a stronger Ottawa, by building a special place for you to gather as a community, and showcase what is best about your city.

You know what I want to see. I love Canadian football, and the Grey Cup, and I very much want to help bring both back to our nation's capital. So do the Governors who run our league.

But the purpose of this letter is not to detail the stadium proposal brought forward by our partners in Ottawa. It's to share with you some facts about our league, and to correct some of the misinformation that has made its way into the public discourse.

The decision you face is far too important to have it influenced by outdated perceptions or claims that simply do not hold water. It is my sincere hope that this information adds in a very positive way to the debate. And I thank you for considering this information, at this important time:

Claim: Canadian football might not be around 25 years from now.

Fact: Canadian football's signature event - the Grey Cup - has endured two World Wars, the Great Depression, and more than a few cynics who have predicted its demise only to be proven emphatically wrong time and again by Canadians. In fact, in a 2008 survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of the Dominion Institute and the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Canadians identified the Grey Cup as number seven on their list of defining events for Canada, behind Confederation and Vimy Ridge. Last year's Grey Cup was played in front of 66,308 fans in Montreal, the second largest live audience in its history, which spans 96 Grey Cup Games. It was watched on TSN and RDS television by 3.65 million Canadians. The suggestion that the Grey Cup and Canadian football have somehow run their course is clearly not based on fact.

Claim: It would take six Grey Cups to generate $50 million in economic activity for the local economy.

Fact: According to a news release issued July 3, 2008 by the Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance, the total economic activity (GDP) generated by the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto was more than $80.1 million throughout the province, with $52.9 million occurring in Toronto. The Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance reported that these expenditures generated more than $25.6 million in wages and salaries, and supported nearly 624 jobs, of which 475 occurred in Toronto. These are their numbers, not the CFL's. Mayor Miller is eager to have the Grey Cup back in Toronto.

Claim: The CFL has lost its fan base over the years.

Fact: Today's CFL is strong and stable. In 2008, we averaged 28,914 fans per regular season game. By comparison, Toronto's BMO Field, home to Toronto FC of the MLS, seats 21,000 people. Our total regular season attendance last year exceeded two million fans for the seventh straight season. (In case you're wondering, this matches our attendance in what some consider the CFL's glory years, 1976 to 1982.) On TV, the CFL continues to experience great success. Last season on TSN, the CFL averaged 393,000* viewers per game, second only to hockey in Canada.

*Source: BBM Nielsen Media Research

Claim: CFL football in Ottawa failed before and today's Ottawa is not the city of the Riders glory days of the past.

Fact: Unlike some previous owners, Bill Shenkman, Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and Jeff Hunt have deep roots in Ottawa, a commitment to local charitable and civic causes that has been proven over several years, deep financial resources, and a strong commitment to the success of the CFL in Ottawa. In that sense, they are an excellent match for a city that is bigger, more dynamic, and more successful than it was 20 years ago, yet still has a deep respect and affection for its roots and traditions.

Claim: The people of Ottawa must choose between football and soccer, and a Major League Soccer team playing between 19 and 23 games each year makes more sense than a CFL team with only nine home games.

Fact: The CFL has no objection to the proposed facility being shared with other major tenants, soccer or otherwise, as this is done in many of our existing stadiums already.

A CFL team plays 10 or 11 home dates, excluding Grey Cups, which are traditionally rotated among our teams. That means a Grey Cup in Ottawa approximately every eight years or so.

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