National Post (Latest Edition)

Summit aims to align Canadian football

- Dan Barnes in Edmonton Postmedia News­arnes

Apowerful cross- section of Canada’s football brain trust will be huddling up online and throwing ideas around for the lasting good of the sport.

The Canadian Football Summit Meeting Series, announced Thursday, is essentiall­y a virtual think tank, bringing together about a dozen leaders from Football Canada, the Canadian Football League, U Sports and the Canadian Junior Football League.

Previous summits brought more people to the table, but Football Canada president Jim Mullin believes this will be a more nimble, multilater­al exercise, one that produces a realistic list of actionable items by the end of October.

In the first round of meetings, group members will tackle developmen­t and engagement, competitio­n and events, alignment, informatio­n and visibility, and the internatio­nal arena. A second set of discussion­s set for early winter will focus on female tackle football, flag football, diversity issues and regional relationsh­ips.

“The difference here is even though it’s being termed a summit, it’s more of a think tank in that we have a small number of people on these calls, in and around a dozen, and they are all leaders in one way or another who have a very short path to making final decisions,” said Mullin.

“I think that is very important. I’ve been part of summits in the past that felt really good when you were in the room and generated all sorts of worthy discussion, but at the end of the day they haven’t been able to achieve much.”

Confirmed participan­ts in some or all of the calls include Mullin and Football Canada’s executive director Shannon Donovan, CJFL commission­er Jim Pankovich, U Sports chief sport officer Lisette Johnson Stapley and director of communicat­ions John Bower, and a CFL contingent that includes chief financial officer and head of football operations Greg Dick, associate vice-president of officiatin­g Darren Hackwood, communicat­ions director Lucas Barrett, senior manager of football operations Eric Noivo and director of global scouting Greg Quick.

Mullin hopes the Canadian football community emerges from the meeting series as a more cohesive unit, ready to elevate the sport’s profile.

“I find most of the time that our biggest issue in the game of football is that all of our various stakeholde­rs work in silos. That goes from the CFL all the way down to a community associatio­n with 400 kids playing. We need to break down those silos so that we co- operate. We need co- operation between the CJFL and U Sports, to find a way for U Sports and the CFL to work together, find a way for Football Canada and the CFL to work together more progressiv­ely with grassroots programs and internatio­nal programs. Through constructi­ve dialogue I think we can check some of those boxes.”

If that foundation­al goal is achieved, it may be most evident in a new approach to scheduling, hosting and promoting major national events like the Grey Cup, Vanier Cup, Canadian Bowl, East-west Bowl, CFL combine, CFL draft and an annual internatio­nal game featuring Canada’s world junior team being planned by Football Canada personnel.

“That’s certainly a direction that’s in the interest of everyone; being able to deliver better events, and events that get better coverage and get recognized in the national community,” said Mullin. “The Vanier Cup certainly had challenges over the last few years, the Canadian Bowl can certainly benefit from a collective effort to get it higher in terms of presence on the national scene. How do we get more out of the East-west Bowl? You’ve got all the best players in the country going into their senior year but in terms of media coverage and exposure it’s like a Jules Verne novel, it’s 20,000 leagues under the sea.

“With the know- how that will be around that table, we can make more of these opportunit­ies.”

He sees a possible linkage between the Vanier Cup and Canadian Bowl, as well as the Grey Cup and a university conference championsh­ip like the Yates Cup.

“We need to throw all the parts onto the table and then re-fit them together, and those are just some of the parts.”

And he sees a financial benefit to aligning those parts into an attractive package for a television network. TSN, which pays handsomely for CFL broadcast rights, would be the most likely partner.

“If we are aligning all of these national events, it would be a good little five- or six- game television package for a network,” said Mullin. “I certainly see an appeal in the marketplac­e for almost one- stop shopping.”

 ?? Jacques Boisinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? University of Calgary Dinos’ J-min Pelley raises the U Sports Vanier Cup after winning the 2019 university football cham
Jacques Boisinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS University of Calgary Dinos’ J-min Pelley raises the U Sports Vanier Cup after winning the 2019 university football cham pionship.

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