The D.C. Defenders, right, line up against the Seattle Dragons for the opening kickoff of the opening football game of the XFL season in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. The CFL and XFL are continuing their talks on a potential partnership and ways to grow the game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Stephen Whyno

The D.C. Defenders, right, line up against the Seattle Dragons for the opening kickoff of the opening football game of the XFL season in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. The CFL and XFL are continuing their talks on a potential partnership and ways to grow the game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Stephen Whyno

CFL, XFL face plenty of hurdles if they want to join forces and form a partnership

Could begin in 2022 if deal reached

The CFL and XFL are continuing their talks on a potential partnership and ways to grow the game.

However, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, a co-owner of the American-based XFL, gave the impression the two sides are much further along with a recent tweet.

“We’ll figure out a smart season that’ll create phenomenal opportunities for players and be the best experience for fans,” he wrote. ” I played ball for years and wrestled 280+ nights a year (for years) so I know the value in smart scheduling and recovery.”

If a deal is reached, it’s expected to begin in 2022 as the Canadian league continues to work on returning to the field this season after cancelling the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there’s no shortage of potential challenges for the two leagues to iron out. Here’s a look at some of the more pressing issues they could face:

STATUS OF XFL

It’s difficult to understand exactly what the XFL is. It was made up of eight franchises when it halted play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson, business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners bought the league for US$15 million with original plans to resume play in 2022. But upon entering talks with the CFL, the XFL announced it was putting its 2022 plans on hold, “pending the outcome of our conversations with the CFL.”

Exactly what Johnson, Garcia and Redbird Capital Partners own remains unclear but they certainly bring plenty to the table. Johnson, a former CFL player, is a larger-than-life figure with both influence and global appeal, the latter the CFL could use to attract attention with a younger demographic.

Garcia, the XFL chairwoman and owner has not only successfully managed the career of Johnson — her ex-husband — but also owns Seven Bucks Productions. It’s a company that’s been responsible for such movies as “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” as well as “Hobbs & Shaw”, the spinoff from the Fast and the Furious franchise.

RedBird Capital Partners is an investment firm reportedly managing over US$4 billion in assets.

SCHEDULE

In both of its incarnations — 2001 and 2020 — the XFL was a spring football league, kicking off its season in February. The inaugural campaign culminated with the Los Angeles XTreme defeating the San Francisco Demons in the championship game but the ‘20 season ended prematurely due to the global pandemic.

The Alliance of American Football — another spring league — folded in its first season of existence in 2019.

The CFL traditionally begins its season in June and finishes off with the Grey Cup game in November.

But if under terms of a partnership or merger, the CFL was required to begin play in February, the big question would be how feasible is it to play games in Canada during that time, especially those in outdoor stadiums? Not to mention where would clubs stage their training camps in order to prepare for a season?

And exactly what would the Canadian public’s appetite for spring football be if its season butted heads with the NHL playoffs?

Conversely, how could the XFL operate playing games in the U.S. during the summer months when there’s traditionally no football, per se? And could the XFL exist playing games south of the border in the fall when both the NFL and NCAA are in full swing?

RULES

Another interesting dilemma here. Would a CFL/XFL partnership play under Canadian or American rules?

Canadian football games consist of three downs and 12 players aside. The defensive line must line up a yard off the line of scrimmage and offences can have unlimited men in motion prior to the snap of the ball. They also have 20 seconds to put the ball into play.

In the U.S., the offence and defence have 11 players on the field at a time and there’s no separation between the offensive and defensive lines. And once the ball is set, offensive players cannot move and an offence has 40 seconds in order to put the ball into play.

The two games also feature big differences in the punt-return game.

In Canada, the punt team must provide a five-yard zone for the returner to catch the ball before it can attempt to make the tackle. If a member of the punt team is within the buffer zone, it’s a 15-yard penalty. However, if that should happen when the returner picks up the ball on the bounce, it’s a five-yard penalty.

There aren’t any five-yard zones in the U.S. game although the returner can raise his arm into the air and call a fair catch, meaning the punt team cannot touch him as he attempts to make a play on the ball. But if the returner fumbles, the ball becomes live.

FIELD

Canadian football is played on a field that’s 110 yards long and 65 yards wide. Goalposts are placed at the goal-line and end zones are 20 yards deep.

In the U.S., football fields are 100 yards long and 53 yards wide. The end zones are 10 yards deep with goalposts placed on the back line.

Fitting a Canadian-sized field into an American stadium proved to be an issue in 1995 during the CFL’s American expansion. That year, the Memphis Mad Dogs played their home games at the Liberty Bowl with end zones that measured 14 yards deep, among other challenges.

CANADIAN CONTENT

CFL teams must carry at least 21 Canadians on their 46-man game-day roster, with at least seven being starters. During the league’s U.S. expansion, American teams weren’t required to carry Canadians on their roster. One team — Baltimore — did the best job of finding American players suited to the Canadian game, reaching the Grey Gup game in both years it existed, and winning in 1995.

PRIORITY

The timing of the CFL/XFL announcement is interesting. The CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is also currently looking at a return to the field in 2021.

The league has released a full 18-game schedule for all nine teams for 2021 slated to begin June 10. But there are many who feel that remains an ambitious projection given the league’s return-to-play protocols remains with the six provincial health authorities where CFL teams operate.

The CFL’s top priority should be a return to play in 2021 because there are very serious and genuine concerns about the league’s ability to survive if it’s forced to cancel a second straight campaign.

If the CFL doesn’t get back to playing football this year, there could be no future partnership with the XFL to explore.

FANS

As important as a resumption of play is to the CFL, so too is doing so with fans in the stands. Ticket sales are a primary source of income for Canadian franchises and essential in 2021 given the CFL as a whole reportedly lost between $60-to-$80 million by not playing last year.

Canadians continue to receive vaccinations, raising hopes that fans will be allowed into the stands at some point in 2021. The question remains exactly when that will be.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021.

Football

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Cowboy Kicks, originally scheduled for May 5, will now take place Sept. 18. (Contributed photo)
Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks fundraiser moved to Sept. 18

A major fundraiser for Westerner Park and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell tries to tip a point shot past Lethbridge Hurricanes goalie Car Tetachuk in WHL action Friday night at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels struggles continue, drop seventh straight to Hurricanes

Hurricanes score three power-play goals in 6-3 win

Downtown Red Deer patio restaurants have been busy this summer. Contributed photo
City of Red Deer expediting patio application process for restaurants

The City of Red Deer is allowing businesses to install patios prior… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Ediburgh, left, look on as Manitoba Beaver peaks out of his box at a July 14, 1970 ceremony in which Hudson's Bay Company observed an old tradition. The death of Prince Philip has reminded a small French village in Manitoban about how a royal visit half a century ago made the community the centre of frog racing in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prince Philip’s frog-jumping legacy in a Manitoba French community

WINNIPEG — The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has reminded… Continue reading

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for Canada's fourth election held during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon residents set to vote in fourth election held in Canada during pandemic

WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole, former PM Harper speak on ‘build back right’ for pandemic recovery

OTTAWA — Top Tory leaders of the past and present will speak… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals set to debate universal basic income, pharmacare, OAS hike

OTTAWA — Grassroots Liberals have taken up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call… Continue reading

Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as secondary school students return to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, Monday, March 29, 2021. Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a year of missed social connections that would typically help them mature and regulate their emotions, says a psychiatrist calling for more education on coping skills as part of the school curriculum. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Teach students coping skills to deal with anger, including during pandemic: doctor

Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Finding a job: 3 job search truisms you need to accept

A job search has many moving parts; your mindset is the most… Continue reading

Most Read