The Canadian Football League (CFL) pales in popularity compared to the NFL but has been a long-time fixture in Canadian culture thanks to an extremely passionate fan base. The CFL continues to gain popularity, which has led to an increase in the value of franchises in the past few years. The rules are similar to NFL football but with a few key differences.
It’s not a shock that interest in CFL betting markets is perhaps at an all-time high. Football is never going to be as popular as hockey in Canada, but the future looks bright. Not only are Canadians in love with CFL game, but Americans have also taken an interest in recent years, particularly when the NFL is out of season.
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History of the League
Like the NFL, Canadian Football has its roots in the English game of rugby. It’s a little-known fact that the first Canadian football game played on North American soil took place in Canada in 1861. That’s eight years before the first documented American football game.
Several different leagues operated in Canada before the modern era of Canadian Football. Eventually, these smaller organizations joined to form the Canadian Football Council (CFC) in 1956.
Creation of the CFL
In 1958, CFC left the CRU and was rebranded as the Canadian Football League. A few years later, two conferences were announced. Canadian football operated much in the same way as MLB baseball until interleague play was introduced, along with an expanded postseason.
The CFL had nine teams since its inception to 1981. In that year, the Montreal Alouettes folded but were replaced by a new franchise in Montreal named the Condors in the same year. The name was changed back to Alouettes in 1986.
Tested Their Luck in the US
The league decided to try Canadian football in the United States in 1993. The Sacramento Goal Miners were the first team established south of the border. They were a middling success. In 1994, they introduced several other teams, which included franchises in Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Shreveport.
More teams were added the next season with the American teams forming the Southwest Division. In 1995, the Baltimore Stallions became the only team not based in Canada to ever win a Grey Cup.
Unfortunately, the American CFL experiment didn’t last long. Only the Stallions seemed to be a success. The CFL decided to refocus on Canada, and the American teams were phased out of the league.
As of 2014 CFL season, the league has nine teams. The CFL calendar of activities and format is similar to the NFL’s. However, there are some significant differences when it comes to the two leagues, something we will touch on in the next section.
Team training camps open up 28 days before the start of regular season. There are two exhibition games (preseason) in mid-June. The regular season begins in the final week of June.
CFL Season Length
The CFL regular season is 20 weeks long, with each team playing 18 games each. There are two divisions, the East Division and West Division. Each team plays three games against two divisional opponents and two games against the other six teams. Each team gets two bye weeks, except for a single team which plays two games in one week and receives three byes.
The season runs from late June until early November. After that, there is a six-team, three-week single elimination playoff, which culminates with the Grey Cup championship at the end of the month.
The top team from each division will earn a first round bye. The winner of each division’s semifinal game travels to play the first placed teams in the division finals. The winners of these two games, the division champions, then face off in the Grey Cup where a champion will be crowned.
Grey Cup Championship
The Grey Cup is traditionally held on the fourth or fifth Sunday in November. The Grey Cup is both the name of the trophy given to the winning team and the title of the CFL’s championship.
Differences with American Football
Both Canadian and American football have the same objectives and similar scoring. Both sports score 6 points for a touchdown, 3 for a field goal, 1 for an extra point, 2 points for a two-point conversion, and 2 for a safety.
Rule Difference: Rouge or Single
The one difference when it comes to scoring is a what is called a “rouge,” which is also called a single. A rouge only exists in Canadian football and is 1 point.
A rouge is awarded when the opposing team catches or recovers a punt or missed field goal in his own end zone but is prevented from returning the ball back onto the field of play. If the returner takes a knee or runs from the end zone out of bounds, a point is also recorded.
This is quite different than American football where players aren’t penalized for touchbacks. In Canadian football, there’s a lot more incentive to kick or punt the ball into your opponent’s end zone.
Overall Gameplay Differences
The biggest differences between American football and Canadian football has to deal with the field size, number of players, and number of downs on offense.
A Canadian football field is 100 yards long with two 20-yard end zones. The width is 65 yards. The Canadian football field is both larger and wider than an American football field, which measures 100 yards long and 53.5 yards wide.
Three Downs vs Four Downs
On offense, there are only three downs in Canadian football compared to four downs in American football. Three downs create a much more pass-oriented offensive game plan, simply because running isn’t as viable with just two downs before teams have to think about punting.
12 Players on the Field
Canadian football has one more player on the field compared to American football. Instead of 11 guys on each side of the ball, you will see 12 on CFL broadcasts.
CFL betting markets won’t be much different that NFL betting markets, except that most sportsbooks, even those servicing Canadians will likely have more options for American football than the CFL.
Point spreads, totals, moneylines, player and team props, along with futures are all available when betting on the CFL. Live betting is also available for Canadian football. There may be some specific bets not available for NFL football that may be available in CFL betting markets.
The CFL surely qualifies as a small market sport. Betting limits are far lower regarding CFL wagering compared to NFL betting at just about every online sportsbook that services North America. That’s the case regardless of whether they accept U.S. citizens.
Maximum bet limits will likely be around $500 for recreational sportsbooks and a few thousand dollars or so at larger more professional caliber sportsbooks. There are a lot of advantages to betting small market sports, but it will be a lot tougher to get big money down on the CFL compared to the NFL.