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XFL vs. CFL Player Salaries, How Do Both Leagues Compare

With the start of the XFL season just around the corner, we have a lot to look forward to. But there’s one thing though we want to take a look at, and that is the pay structure and how it stacks up to the other professional leagues. 

One, in particular, is the CFL. The Canadian Football League has made great strides in becoming an alternative football option for fans who just want to watch more football games. The pay for players is nowhere near close to the NFL and it never will be, or at least it doesn’t look like it ever will but we never know exactly how things will work out. 

CFL Salaries

The CFL does not release salaries for all players but they do release team salary caps so we can assume certain aspects of pay. According to sources the CFL’s salary cap for each team in 2019 was 5.7 million CAD with an average player salary of $54,000 CAD for the season. That number will increase to $65,000 for the 2020 and 2021 seasons per the CFL’s collective bargaining agreement. The highest-paid player in the CFL is B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly who signed a four-year deal worth 2.9 million CAD. That’s a pretty big contract for the CFL.

So with that in mind how will the XFL compare? We know that the XFL has a “tiered” salary structure with the top tier making $250,000 US a year with possibly going up to $600,000 US which equals $326,512 CAD and $783,630 CAD while the bottom tier will pay from $50,000 up to $70,000. Plus if you look at it in another way, the CFL plays 18 games with the playoffs and the XFL will be playing a 10 game season with 1 playoff round and the championship game. So the team that wins it all will only be playing 12 games compared to the CFL’s 21 week season with each team having three bye weeks and whoever wins the “Grey Cup” (the CFL’s Championship Game) will end up playing 21 games. So with that said the XFL will pay better as players are not playing as long as CFL players.

Perhaps it might seem like the CFL pays better than what the XFL is going to but if you look at the history of the CFL, do you think they always paid that much to a player?

Think about it like this, the CFL was officially founded in 1958 and up until 1990, most salaries were unknown until it was reported that legendary CFL quarterback Doug Flutie signed a two-year contract with the B.C. Lions worth a whopping $350,000 CAD. That’s 175k (if my math is correct) a season. Now of course back then that was good pay but today that would equal $208,698 CAD and in the US dollar equals $159k. The salary cap for the CFL at that time was between 2.8 to 3 million CAD, so very few players made that kind of money playing in Canada.

Pre <em>Flutie Flakes<em> Era

Even today most players have a second job just to make ends meet. One thing that is admirable about CFL players is the love they have of the game. To put on the helmet and pads to play during the season and afterwards going to a secondary job, you have to love the game in order to do that! How many players need to do that in the NFL?

So if it took the CFL this long to pay players like that then think of how much further ahead the XFL is to the CFL. If the XFL goes as well as I believe it will, then players will be paid even better in a few years. I’m not saying they will be at NFL levels but they will surpass the CFL by miles in just a short amount of time! 

Of course this is all hypothetical and since we can’t know for sure how much players are really making in the CFL. We can figure the tiers by the salary cap. And after my research, I strongly believe the XFL players will be living much more comfortably than 90% of players in the Great North.

Revised Salary Information

It was recently discovered that the XFL will not be paying the minimum of $54,000 but only paying $27,000 which has caused a couple players to remove themselves from the league. I understand that since the only competition no longer exists (AAF) that they don’t have to match or beat salaries, now I’m not saying that’s whats happened here but it seems like they are going to reduce salaries drastically which I can foresee quite a few players walking away also! Of course for them to play football for 3 months and make at least $27,000 really isn’t too bad. You couldn’t make a comfortable living on that but not bad for a couple months. So if the XFL does end up paying 27k that would be a total of $35,263 CAD which isn’t that good for all their games played.

I’m not a fan of going back on their word even though I honestly thought the salaries were way too high for a startup league. You would think they would make sure they’ve established a solid fan base and a fun game to watch before dropping that kind of cash for players! It’s not really confirmed how much a player will make for tier 1 or 2 which of course are the big dollar contracts so if they are not going to pay them what they agreed on internally doesn’t set a very good example of how the league will operate!

What do you think? Do you see the XFL passing the CFL in the years to come or will the CFL make the XFL’s pay look like chump change? Let us know in the comments. And if any of my figures are inaccurate, let me know. Thanks for reading and Let’s go XFL Army!

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  1. Jeffrey Lovegun

    October 24, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Your numbers are wrong. Minimum salary is $54,000 CAD for 2019 and increasing to $65,000 CDN for 2020 with an average salary currently $87,000

    • Shawn Mohr

      October 24, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks for any information, with the CFL, it’s hard to find much information so any help is appreciated!

    • Aaron

      August 28, 2020 at 2:49 am

      Thank-you for setting this article writer straight. They’re just trying to make the XFL numbers look better than the CFL’s and they’re not. Today league stars in the CFL can make $750,000+ a season and average is between $80,000 – $85,000 a season.

  2. Steven Diggs Jr.

    October 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Not to mention the conversion rate of your pay when you’re an American playing Canada. Also, you will most likely be playing closer to home, so that’s a bonus.

  3. Nonner

    October 24, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    350,000 divided by two years is 175,000 per year. You need to run those numbers again lol

    • Shawn Mohr

      October 24, 2019 at 9:45 pm

      lol thanks, i must’ve fat fingered that!

  4. HM Robinson

    October 24, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Are you numbers accurate regarding the XFL? Read today, one of the players backed out cause the pay was 27,000

    • Shawn Mohr

      October 24, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      This article was written before that news was discovered and we are looking into it. We will have a report on that very shortly. Thanks for your input!

  5. RightTouch

    October 25, 2019 at 3:15 am

    The CFL is the paying players a base salary now of $65K CAD… The XFL has determined that it will pay its players a base salary of $27K plus giving them a full time job working for the organization. At the end of the day these leagues are paying regardless if they pay more or less.. Players must show their worth in order to receive the Max contracts that do exist in the CFL. The CFL could get to the NFL level it just chooses not to; however I do feel that there are too many American players on a CFL roster… It hurts the players coming out of USports Universities who are looking to get drafted in the CFL.

  6. Paul Black

    October 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    When CFL 2.0 takes off there’s no reason why we wouldn’t see salaries on par with the NFL like they were at one time. We need to think bigger.

    • bob gec

      October 25, 2019 at 11:43 pm

      Not a chance in hell.Just being on the practice roster in the NFL earns you well over 100 K cdn.The CFL will never come close to the NFL salary wise.

      • Heather D.

        October 26, 2019 at 3:07 am

        And that has never been their aim in any case. One of the main reasons the CFL has survived as long as it has is its salary structure, and in recent years, its implementation of a salary cap. I predict the CFL will be around long after the XFL (again) disappears… because of its realistic and proportionate salary cap, and also because of the uniqueness of its rules, which, by the way, EVERY American I have ever talked to who has watched the CFL game (and that’s quite a number of them over the past 45 years) states that it is a superior game–faster, more exciting, and with more scoring opportunities…

  7. Lewis

    October 25, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    The XFL signed it’s own death warrant with the $27k salaries. It should be a mid week league during the NFL season. Nobody plays on tuesday and wednesday. This will flame out just like the AAF did. I’m already turned off.

  8. super390

    October 25, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    “So if it took the CFL this long to pay players like that then think of how much further ahead the XFL is to the CFL.”

    This is a specious argument. The CFL got to take this long because it’s been around for 70 years. It is protected by the Canadian government as Canada’s only football league (google the story of how the WFL was driven out of Toronto in 1974 by Parliamentary action). Most of all, the CFL might be profitable; the XFL’s best argument is that McMahon has enough money committed to cover years of losses. But when those losses go away, that doesn’t mean the players get a raise; that’s not how bosses work. The market is what the market is.

    No non-NFL football league above semi-pro level has ever lasted more than 3 years without quickly forcing a merger with the NFL. It seems incredibly unlikely that the XFL is going to last decades. Many leagues got wrecked precisely because their competition with established leagues caused their payroll to explode and overwhelmed them with debt. Don’t be like the USFL and try to hand out millions.

  9. Brian Bontrager

    October 30, 2019 at 10:11 am

    I actually prefer the CFL. I don’t think the league chooses not to pay NFL level salaries, the revenue from TV just isnt there and thats one of if not the main reason why the boys down south are making that kind of change. I dont concern myself with what the players are making, if they can field a good product that’s all I care about. My only gripe would be that they only have 9 teams but I’m aware that it would be almost impossible for another two teams to be established and flourish.

  10. Dide

    November 1, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    These salaries come from one guy’s wallet. Vince sold stock to fund the league, I don’t know of any other partners. He pays the rent, the salaries, travel costs, and all the bills from this stock sell off. The TV contracts don’t pay anything. There is no other owners to foot the startup cost.

    The CFL, NFL, and USFL all had multiple owners to fund the leagues. Even the MLS was funded by multiple owners. Vince wants total control but probably needs a partner like Mark Cuban or savy media business man\woman with cash to take the league to the next level of stability. But I’m sure Vince realizes the drawbacks of that, just like the USFL did when Trump came in and split the league.

    The players playing for cheap need to realize this is not a career league for them right now, or even the CFL, but a startup company and they need to realize the financial structural limits the XFL is under until the product grows. And it only grows if they put on a show.

  11. Garry Coston

    February 15, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    27k? For putting your body on the line like all football players do, that’s a slap in the face. Regarding the CFL, to me it’s more exciting than our NFL football. I wish NFL and CFL would merge, keep the long CFL fields, ditch the 3 downs to 4, keep the width, and move the goal post back. Sorry, dont like 3 downs but CFL to me is more exciting.

    • Nick

      March 7, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      I love and prefer the 3 down football. Keeps the excitement flowing, and to be honest, I feel it encourages more quality plays vs flukish type luck plays. When you have the 4 downs, it’s not as often that 1st down conversions happen. I dunno. Both have their goods and bads.

  12. Don

    February 16, 2020 at 10:10 am

    The average CFL salary is around $CDN 97K not $54K. $54K is the minimum salary. Hey idea…. why doesn’t the XFL and CFL get married and take on the goliath NFL?? So much growth potential there, although would still be tough because the NFL does just about everything right.

  13. jason

    February 25, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    My Blue Bombers, Grey Cup Champs signed our QB to at about 500K per and top defensive player to 260K per

  14. The echo man

    March 7, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    The NFL is a monster. It is a fleshed our embodiment of the ” American Dream” . It is this way because of the mega economy of the US and the reality that the USA is almost SIX TIMES as large as Canada. Candian foot ball is not so much ” different” than US football as there are and have been Candian system players from college to the pros who have come ” south” to play successfully and vice versa.

    If you had a larger consumer market which is also based on population you’d see the salaries get higher for Canadian players, although with the leagues imposed limits and rules I think CFL pay would be in the mid to high six figures still, not in the millions like in the U.S.

    I think the XFL will survive if it uses the CFL salary controls but adjusts to US cost of living – I could see guys who are good but cut from NFL rosters, former CFL and Canadian and US college players showing up and giving quality performance if the XFL gains the fans( minimum 25k per game) expands to at least 12-16 teams, and the pay goes up to $120-150k USD on the avg, with top tier players making a ceiling $250k/yr and game tickets not going over $100 USD for premium seats.

    In the end CFL endures because it not only showcases QUALITY Canadian and ” International”( USA) players but it CARES about the fan base.

    Here in the US, the XFL would be wise to stick to its motto ” for the love of the game”( draw fans, push players out there to interact with the public and gain followers, allow partnerships and AD sponsors , and for goodness sakes DONT charge $80-100 for jerseys, $15 for hotdogs or $12 for an 8 to 10oz cup of beer….

  15. Wayne Stanton

    August 18, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    The XFL will overtake the CFL due to being a better on field product. The CFL requires that half the roster MUST be Canadians. It’s not ‘best man per position’. Both leagues will compete for non NFL players but the XFL will have have overall stronger personal.

  16. K

    August 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    You have to also factor in that the cost of living is lower in most of the CFL cities and there are benefits that they get that don’t have to come out of compensation. So it’s not purely dollar to dollar. Of course, the CFL still doesn’t pay anything close to NFL, but it’s not as bad as it looks.

  17. K

    August 24, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Followup on my last comment, this from

    “[T]the CFL player mean income is over two times the Canadian national median income for males in the 25-34 age range. [M]ost players would be in the top 10% income earners in Canada while the highest paid players are in the top federal and provincial income tax brackets and the top 1% income earners in Canada.”

  18. Jim

    November 28, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    The XFL and CFL are 2nd tier leagues. Their calendar (almost) don’t overlap. A player could be playing for both leagues and make very decent money. I know football is very hard on the body though.

  19. jason

    January 5, 2021 at 11:50 am

    $54,000 average in CFL? You’d need a roster of at least 100 players? Active rosters are 46 (plus practice poster)

  20. terry huffman

    June 15, 2021 at 8:53 pm

    Sorry to say I am CANADIAN and will support the CFL all I can ,,best league and 3 downs is the best,

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