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Rick Zamperin: Postponing season will further fuel CFL-XFL merger talk

As COVID-19 cases surge across Canada, thanks in large part to the more contagious variants of concern and a vaccine rollout that has been operating at a snail’s pace, we are expecting to receive an update as early as Monday from the Canadian Football League on the status of its upcoming season.

Word is the league will announce that its 2021 schedule — slated to kick off on June 10 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visiting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — will not start on time.

The latest development comes after the federal government reportedly rejected the CFL’s latest request for a $30-million interest-free loan. A similar request was sacked by the Trudeau Liberals last year, forcing the 2020 season to be scrapped.

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Postponing the start of the 2021 campaign will further hamper the league’s bottom line and will also reenergize those who support a rumoured merger between the CFL and the XFL.

We know CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and XFL owners Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dani Garcia and RedBird Capital — who purchased the league out of bankruptcy for $15 million last year — have been discussing how they can “collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football.”

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Neither side has publicly said their discussions will ultimately result in a merger, and as a fan of the CFL I’d be against such a move based on the fact that the three-down game has been around for decades while the XFL has managed to play a season and a half in a span of 20 years.

I will admit that the CFL has its warts and many of them are related to the almighty dollar, but while no one is getting rich playing in the league or owning a team, it has stood the test of time.

In saying that, if the CFL and XFL decide to join forces there are certain parts of the Canadian game that should be retained.

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A merged league should keep the Grey Cup. It has been around for more than 100 years and is filled with a century of memories, something that can’t be said for the XFL championship trophy.

The CFL-XFL should also use three downs instead of the four-down game utilized in the NFL. Yes, football fans south of the border have watched the four-down game for decades at the professional and college level, so why compete with that?

A merged league must offer something different.

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To that end, keeping the waggle, the 20-second play clock and 12 players on each side is also a must — all elements that make the CFL a fast-paced and unique game.

Again, I hope a merger doesn’t come to be, but as they say ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

At the very least, I hope the CFL can get its financial ducks in a row this year and we can celebrate the return of football in Canada, not to mention the Grey Cup game in Hamilton, in 2021.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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