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CFL fans should brace themselves for a wave of change

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It’s been a while since the Canadian Football League made news that could potentially rattle the foundations of the game in this country.

But Wednesday’s announcement of formal talks with the XFL and its backers is nothing less than that.

It’s clear that senior officials in the XFL and CFL have been communicating for months, exploring and spitballing ideas about what synergies might exist between the two leagues. This announcement tells us that things are about to get serious.

What that means at this stage is completely speculative, with anything from sharing best practices to a full-blown merger fitting the definition of “explore opportunities for alignment.”

But there are legitimate reasons to believe this is going to fundamentally change things for both leagues.

Around this time a year ago, the CFL came out with projections of enormous losses for 2020 if the pandemic prevented the league from playing. Again, this season, although most believe a partial season will be possible, the losses are expected to be heavy.

Playing a money-losing partial season in 2021 doesn’t do much for the league’s prospects beyond this year, which remain dim economically, as the pandemic’s hangover is likely to be present for years to come.

Which brings us to the XFL and its investors, who picked up that league out of bankruptcy last summer, for a planned re-launch in 2022.

Those plans have officially been put on pause, pending the result of formal talks with the CFL, which tells you how serious the two sides are.

Just as was the case almost 30 years ago when the CFL began down the road of U.S. expansion, the goal here is to tap into U.S. television money and sponsorship opportunities.

The fact that this involves Dwayne Johnson and the world-wide marketing resources associated with him makes this different.

For the XFL, they get to potentially align with the CFL’s credibility and history, its established fan bases, and its exploration into international markets.

So what can we expect? It’s impossible to say at this time, but CFL fans should brace themselves for a wave of change that could involve XFL and CFL teams playing games against each other by as soon as 2022.

Two obvious questions jump out with regard to any conversations around that possibility: What time of year would these games be played and what would the rules be?

The XFL has been a February to May league, with a 10-week regular season. The CFL has been a May to November league, with an 18-game schedule, so something’s going to have to give there.

And while the CFL game is rooted in its traditions of three downs and a 110-yard field, the XFL has played a modified version of the NFL game, with four downs and a 100-yard field.

Questions about the future of the Grey Cup and the ratio that requires every CFL team to carry 20 Canadian players won’t be far behind.

These are all things the CFL folks must have thought about before this point, so they must also be prepared to make adjustments or compromises.

There’s going to be a gigantic hue and cry from some fans and members of the media about the league selling its soul. But the truth is that if the CFL in its current form was more successful, especially in the key markets of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, this wouldn’t be necessary.

We’ve also been hearing murmurs since last summer that not all nine CFL teams are committed to playing in a negatively altered economic environment, and there are real concerns about how many are committed to a 2022 season under the status quo.

The pandemic didn’t create the league’s challenges. It just accelerated them and the CFL needs an answer.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has spoken often about the need to change the league’s business model, to not be limited by the way things have always been done and to go boldly after new sources of revenue.

Ambrosie has the opportunity to deliver big on those promises with his XFL venture, even though it’s far too early to say where it will all land or whether it will work.

Source:- TSN

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions

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By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

 

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins

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(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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