The Globalization of Football
In the past year, speculation regarding the international expansion of the NFL has intensified; however, it appears the Canadian Football League is taking more prominent steps to expand the game. The CFL has recently announced a plan to partner with Japan’s top football league (X-League) to swap coaches and players between the two leagues. Japan serves as a good breeding ground for international football talent due to the nation’s affinity for football. Over 200 Japanese universities have football teams and Japan’s X-League has been in operation since 1971.
To discover new talent, the CFL will be holding combines all over the world during January and February, with a global draft two months later. Commissioner of the CFL, Randy Ambrosie, now has 11 international partnerships with leagues in countries like France, Germany, Italy, and England. Ambrosie announced his prediction of doubling the league’s international partners within 3 years with international broadcasting deals to follow.
The CFL seems to be following the model of England’s top soccer league, the English Premier League. Arguably the most competitive sports league in the world, the EPL has a player pool that is 70% international. Ambrosie is hoping that this connection is not just a coincidence and that broadening the horizons of football could increase the quality of the competition.
I personally see this as a fantastic move for the CFL. Unlike the NFL in the past, the CFL is not trying to do too much like creating a new league (NFL Europe) or dealing with the scheduling and bureaucratic nightmare that individual international games provide. The CFL is extending its reach by creating partnerships with already functioning and highly successful leagues. Taking the best talent from around the world will increase the quality of the CFL, while sending some of Canada’s best coaches abroad will help to strengthen the game around the world.