According to a Research Co. survey, 52 per cent of Canadians surveyed will skip the Grey Cup between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers Dec. 12. Pictured here, Ti-Cats QB Jeremiah Masoli (8) tries to elude Saskatchewan Roughriders’ DB Rolan Milligan (32) and DL Charbel Dabire (98) on Nov. 20. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power)

According to a Research Co. survey, 52 per cent of Canadians surveyed will skip the Grey Cup between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers Dec. 12. Pictured here, Ti-Cats QB Jeremiah Masoli (8) tries to elude Saskatchewan Roughriders’ DB Rolan Milligan (32) and DL Charbel Dabire (98) on Nov. 20. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power)

Majority of Canadians plan on skipping Grey Cup, says research company

Research Co. poll re-ignites debate about popularity of NFL and CFL in Canada

While the Winnipeg Blue Bombers the Hamilton Tiger-Cats prep for the Grey Cup, a majority of Canadians surveyed by a polling company say they’ll skip Sunday’s big game.

The Ti-Cats will host the Bombers for the Canadian Football League’s top prize on Sunday, Dec. 12, and according to a Research Co. survey, 52 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t watch the Grey Cup, while 40 per cent said they “probably” or “definitely” would. Meanwhile, 50 per cent said they would watch the National Football League title game, the Super Bowl, Feb. 13, with 44 per cent said they wouldn’t.

Determining whether the CFL is less popular to the NFL is complicated, Farhan Lalji, TSN sports reporter in Hamilton for the Grey Cup, told Black Press Media. Ratings aren’t lacking, he said.

“If you still look at CFL numbers, they’re still exceptionally strong, both during the regular season and for the Grey Cup,” said Lalji. “They are numbers that would be the envy of many other sports programs in the country and, on a weekend basis, compare quite favorably to the NHL. Is there a lot of interest in the NFL? Absolutely. It’s great and I love both leagues.

“It’s an extremely well-packaged product and I think it really, really lends itself to betting, which is certainly trending.”

In terms of age, 45 per cent of Canadians aged 55 years and older said they would watch the Grey Cup, while only 36 per cent of 35-54 year-olds, and 39 per cent of 18-34 year-olds, said they would tune in. Fifty-three per cent of 18-34 year-olds said they will watch the Super Bowl, while 47 per cent of 35-54s and 49 per cent of 55-plus said they would do the same.

Geographically, 55 per cent of those surveyed from Manitoba and Saskatchewan said they would watch the Grey Cup, compared to 43 per cent of Alberta, 41 per cent of Quebec, 40 per cent of B.C., 39 per cent of Ontario and 26 per cent of Atlantic Canada.

When asked about why a higher percentage of Saskatchewan residents seem to love the CFL more, Lalji said he thinks “they’re prouder Canadians.”

“I think the cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, feel like they can see, feel and touch the NFL a little bit better,” said Lalji. “Toronto is certainly got an affinity for all things, New York … when you’re in a border city, and you are a big city, and you feel like, from your size, that you can relate to these big American cities, and you’re cosmopolitan and diverse in the same way that those American cities are that have NFL teams, I think you feel a little more connected.”

The poll showed eight per cent of respondents stating their interest in the CFL has increased over the past two years, while 13 per cent said their interest waned. Meanwhile, a 72 per cent majority said their interest has remained the same and seven per cent said they weren’t sure.

Ten per cent stated their interest in the NFL has increased in the two years, 71 per cent have maintained the same interest, 11 per cent stated interest has decreased and seven per cent were uncertain.

Mario Canseco, Research Co. president, said where the CFL is falling short is marketing.

“It’s complicated because ultimately, what is missing here is a strategy to try to bring younger people back into the game and new Canadians into the game,” said Canseco. “You have a lot of people who are immigrating from other places in the world and they’re not becoming used to the CFL … they can very quickly fall into the marketing of the NFL and start following teams that don’t play in Canada.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge right now.”

The two leagues can co-exist, said Lalji, but some think relevance in the U.S. builds relevance and credibility in Canada, which is unfortunate.

“You look at the Swedish Hockey League; you think everybody in Sweden doesn’t realize that the best Swedish players are in the NHL? You think everybody in Russia doesn’t understand that the best players are in the NHL?” asked Lalji. “Yet, those leagues are important in those countries, and there’s no reason the CFL shouldn’t be the same.”

Data was collected via an online study conducted Nov. 20-22, with a representative sample of 1,000 Canadian adults, Research Co. stated in a press release.

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