Giles: CFL needs to take risks

The Canadian Football League needs to take risks to expand and remain strong, league president Jeff Giles said Wednesday.

"We have to expand this league into more cities in this country," said Giles, who was in Calgary to give an update for the 2000 CFL season.

"It's easy to go into Ottawa because they've got got a beautiful stadium and we've been there before," he said.

"But we have to find a way to get into other cities in this country and make it a truly radically Canadian Football League."

Giles was quick to point out he has no particular city in mind at this time.

He said the league is on such a strong enough financial footing that future expansion is a possibility.

"Two or three years ago, there would have been no city in this country that would have built a stadium specifically for a CFL team because we were not doing that well," Giles said. "I think now that we've turned the corner.

"I'm hoping there are a few cities who will say, `You know what, it's worth the investment. Let's do something, lets grow this league.' "

Giles also pointed to the possibility of starting an arena football league, to run from January through June, as another way of drumming up interest in the CFL.

Despite a sharp turnaround in attendance and the league's financial situation since 1996, the CFL isn't out of the woods yet, said Giles

"This final chapter is going to be the most difficult to write," he said.

Giles said completing the turnaround for the CFL will require a reinvention of the Canadian game and the way it is viewed by Canadians.

Canadian football fans have been apologizing for the differences in the game for years and Giles said that has to stop.

"I'm sick and tired of defending things that are Canadian just because they're Canadian," Giles said. "I'm tired of sitting back and having people take potshots at things that are uniquely ours.

"I'm tired of defending the Canadian Football League because it's Canadian -- that's what makes it so great."

That attitude has been adopted in the CFL's new Radically Canadian campaign this year.

"It's an attitude that's not really patriotically driven," said Jim Neish, the league's director of marketing. "However, it celebrates the unique, unpredictable aspects of our league in a fun, edgy attitudinal manner."

The humorous radio and television ads, called the CFL Radical Road Trip, are based on feedback from man-on-the-street interviews with Americans.

Impromptu interviews were done in New York City, Washington, D.C., Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans.

Participants comment on facets of the Canadian game, including the three-down format, the absence of a fair-catch rule and the 20-second play clock.

"We're just kind of slow, you know. Laid back. Gotta get an extra down in before we get our 10 yards," said a man in one of the ads.

"Yeah, they (Canadians) are obviously better. Must be the long winters, maybe," said one woman.

By Bill Graveland