CFL still loved by Canadians, older people more than others: survey

Canadians love the CFL and many are committed to watching this weekend's Grey Cup in Vancouver — but an aging fan base raises concerns, according to a new survey.

Saskatchewan, with its Roughriders, remains hotbed of CFL support

Hamilton fans were jubilant after the Tiger-Cats beat Montreal to advance to the Grey Cup. An Angus Reid survey suggests many CFL fans across Canada are 55 or older, which could have implications for future fan support. (Twitter)

Canadians love the CFL and many are committed to watching this weekend's Grey Cup in Vancouver — but an aging fan base raises concerns, according to a new survey.

The Angus Reid online survey of 1,500 people, released ahead of Sunday's nearly sold out CFL championship final between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders in Vancouver, also confirms Saskatchewan continues to be a hotbed of support for three-down football.

Just under a quarter of Canadians (24 per cent) said they’re committed to watching the CFL championship game on Sunday, while 36 per cent are still making up their mind.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent said they won’t be tuning in.

(Angus Reid)

More generally, just over half of Canadians surveyed (53 per cent) told pollsters that the Grey Cup is an important aspect of Canadian culture and identity.

Many who watch both the CFL and NFL say they prefer the Canadian game.

Super Bowl slightly more popular than Grey Cup

The survey asked people if they would choose the Super Bowl or the Grey Cup if they could only watch one of the title games this season.

Canadians were almost evenly divided, but gave the edge to the Super Bowl (52 per cent compared to 48 per cent).

However, there was a big split along age lines. Younger people preferred the Super Bowl, while older people, by a wide margin, preferred the Grey Cup.

Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid said that with the majority of CFL fans 55 and older, the long-term popularity of the game could be in trouble.

"About two thirds of Canadians in that really crucial 18- to 34-year-old age bracket were the ones picking the Super Bowl," Kurl said.

"It's the same in terms of preference among younger Canadians when it comes to Canadian football versus Canadian hockey — much stronger affinity for and much stronger following among younger Canadians for professional hockey than for professional football."

Saskatchewan home of intense CFL support

If the overall trend is worrisome, the league might be cheered by the Saskatchewan numbers.

Saskatchewan, whose beloved Roughriders were knocked out of the playoffs earlier this month, is the only province where fans like Canadian football more than NHL hockey.

Wes Dressler hoisted the Grey Cup as part of the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

When Saskatchewan respondents were asked which sports they follow closely, 65 per cent  they chose the CFL — a considerably higher percentage than any other province.

The survey was conducted Nov.18-21 among 1,504 randomly selected Canadian adults who are
Angus Reid Forum panelists.

A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, Angus Reid said. Angus Reid commissioned and paid for the survey.