The Canadian Football League (CFL), also known as the Ligue canadienne de football (LCF) is the highest level of professional football in Canada. There are nine teams in the league, with each located in a Canadian city. Founded on January 19, 1958, the CFL was created as the result of a merger between two pre-existing entities: the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (which was founded in 1907) and the Western Interprovincial Football Union (which was founded in 1936).
The CFL has attempted to expand beyond Canada in the past – breaking into the US market with the addition of an American team, the Sacramento Gold Miners in 1993 – followed by several other teams, including the Baltimore Stallions, over the next couple years. Although the Baltimore Stallions made history as the only non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup in 1995, by 1996, the league had shrunk back down to nine teams and had returned to an all-Canadian format.
The league is divided into two divisions: East and West. Because there are nine teams, the West division currently has five outfits versus the East’s four.
Each season, all teams have the opportunity to compete for the Grey Cup, which is the second oldest professional sports trophy in North America after the NHL’s Stanley Cup. This takes place at the conclusion of each season, which runs for approximately 21 weeks from mid-June to early November.
During the course of the regular season, each team will play a total of 18 games: twice against each opponent and two additional divisional games in which the chosen opponent will wary each season.
As a result, given that there are 21 weeks in a season, every team gets three “bye” weeks – or three weeks in which they are not playing in a live match. This is in contrast to the NFL, in which teams only get one “bye” week out of the 17 weeks during the regular season.
The highlight of the regular season is the Labour Day Classic, which takes place over the Labour Day weekend and highlights geographic rivalries such as the long-standing battle between Toronto and Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, and Edmonton and Calgary.
The playoffs begin immediately after the regular season concludes in November. Six teams get to participate: the two winners of each division plus four other sides. The two division winners get a break (a “bye”) from featuring in the semi-finals and get to automatically feature in the division finals as the home team.
Meanwhile, the four other sides are picked from the second-placed team in each division, plus the third-placed teams, who will play each other for the chance to feature in the division finals (unless if, in some cases, a fourth-place team from one division finishes with a better seasonal record than a third-place team in the other).
That is thanks to a CFL rule known as the “crossover rule”. If that happens, although it is not too common, fans could ultimately see two teams from the same division (i.e. the West division) playing each other in the final battle for the Grey Cup – although that has not happened thus far in CFL history.
The Edmonton Eskimos, founded in 1949, are the most successful side in the CFL in terms of Grey Cup final appearances and titles won. However, the oldest team still functioning under its original banner is the Toronto Argonauts, who were founded in 1873 – nearly 100 years before the CFL was created.
Fans of the CFL enjoy a wide range of options to tune into matches throughout the regular season and the playoffs via TV, radio, live streaming and on-demand.
In the USA, CFL matches are broadcast nationally on TV, and live streaming is also available for fans to enjoy seeing their favourite teams in action.
In Canada, meanwhile, live streaming, on-demand and radio broadcasts in English and French are available for users, as well as regional and national TV broadcasts covering the regular season, the playoffs, and the Grey Cup final.
In the UK and elsewhere internationally, fans can enjoy live streaming of CFL matches and TV coverage, especially in countries like Brazil, where the sport has been growing in recognition.
Media blackouts, however, do not extend to live streaming and on-demand broadcasts of CFL matches for fans in the USA, Canada, UK, and other international locations.