In 1974, under the threat of the World Football League (WFL) expanding to Toronto, the Canadian Minister of Health, Marc Lalonde introduced a bill (C-22) to protect the Canadian Football League from direct competition. It was again brought up in 1983 when the USFL wanted to play in Canada, and yet again in 2007 when the NFL was thought to want a franchise north of the border.
Never actually signed into law, the original bill was designed to ban foreign football leagues from playing on Canadian soil, almost explicitly during the CFL season; to keep direct competition from another league from having a detrimental effect on the CFL.
This goes back even further than the 1970s.
In the 1950s, the NFL almost had a franchise in Toronto. The Dallas Texans were thinking of moving there. Eric Cradock almost brought a franchise up before getting into the Argos ownership group. The Basset family, John (father) and John F. (son) tried at some point to get other franchises to Canada, including the 1974 Toronto Northmen of the WLF.
This particular Act stated that:
“No person that owns, operates, or manages a team in a league foreign from the CFL shall play in Canada.”
Ironically, Toronto was one of the 3 cities that opposed the bill, along with Vancouver and Montreal.
Once again this was seriously brought up when it was announced that in 2007 the owners of the Toronto Argonauts also wanted to own an NFL team. The Sun article from back then also stated this:
“If Toronto landed an NFL team, the Argonauts — a team that was founded 130 years ago — would more than likely fold. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a team that plays about 40 miles west of Toronto, may also face extinction — and that could kill the CFL.”
Sure, that was 14 years ago, but the belief that if the Argonauts were to leave the CFL for the XFL – which is more than speculation – is the same. The CFL would be hurt enough where they would need to completely re-examine their business model. Which many believe needs to happen anyway.
The bill also stated that no Canadian team shall be granted outside of the country. Once again it didn’t pass but, this was the 3rd such attempt to keep American football out of Canada.
It hasn’t always worked, however. The World League of American Football (WLAF) had a team in Montreal (Machines) while the Alouettes were not part of the CFL, and Toronto has played host to an Arena League team before – the Toronto Phantoms.
Kamloops This Week’s Christopher Foulds recently stated that there needed to be another bill to protect the 3-down version of football from the XFL:
“We need a similar bill today, one with a focus on preserving Canadian rules football from coast to coast to coast now that the CFL and the twice-bankrupt XFL are [talking]…”
The recent talks between the XFL and the CFL didn’t produce anything tangible at this point, but the owners (MLSE) of the Toronto Argonauts were instrumental in getting those discussions started, and reportedly are still very intrigued by what the new XFL ownership has to offer.
Considering what it could mean to the CFL to have one of its teams leave for another league and the history of the Canadian government attempting to “protect” the league, this is interesting. Could the country once again try to keep control of the current lineup, prohibiting XFL expansion into Canada?
We’ll see, in 2023.
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