Lions supposedly “rescue” the rest of the league from holding a profitable Grey Cup

Vancouver newspaper The Province ran with a rather interesting headline on Lowell Ullrich's piece about the questionable decision to put the 2014 Grey Cup back in B.C., which will be confirmed at a Friday press conference (one the mayor controversially wasn't invited to, probably because it's not the city throwing in $2.7 million). That headline? "Lions ride to CFL's rescue." Taken literally, it would imply that hosting the Grey Cup is some terrible fate that B.C. has spared the rest of the country from rather than the hugely-beneficial cash cow the game has been thought to be: Lions' owner David Braley, who also owns the Toronto Argonauts and will thus be hosting his third Grey Cup in four years, is reported to have made up to $10 million in profit off the 2012 game in Toronto. If hosting the Grey Cup wasn't as good of a deal as previously thought, that would be extremely concerning for the CFL, its teams and its future. Fortunately for the league, that doesn't appear to be the case; the business model for the Grey Cup still appears solid, and the decision to return to Vancouver just three years after the last championship in that city seems motivated by other factors. While whether those factors should have been used is debatable, their existence is better news for the CFL than if the Lions were truly "rescuing" the league.

Where this "rescuing" idea comes from is the lack of other bidders. The only firm bids for the 2014 Grey Cup were believed to be from Winnipeg and B.C., and the Bombers dropped out last month to focus on bidding for 2015. Club spokesperson Darren Cameron said in a statement quoted in that piece that the move wasn't thanks to financial difficulties, but rather the club wishing to "to work out the kinks and get fully acclimated to the new facility before hosting a major event such as the Grey Cup." (As the team's new facility is reportedly set to open this June, apparently two full CFL seasons aren't enough time to 'work out the kinks.') At first glance, that does look like the Lions "rescuing" the CFL; if no one else wanted the 2014 Grey Cup, then it had to go to them. That would raise significant questions about just how beneficial hosting is, though; if putting on the game didn't make sense from a business perspective for Montreal, Calgary or Edmonton (all of which have solid stadiums and have had the Grey Cup less recently than Vancouver), that would be troubling for the league. However, there's reason to believe that isn't the case.

The most logical explanation of why those other cities didn't get involved is the belief that it was B.C.'s turn in the rotation, something Dave Naylor wrote Thursday. The Lions stepped in for Hamilton in 2011, so that apparently doesn't count as their turn. If that's indeed the case (and there's evidence to suggest it is), then all of a sudden, the previous information about the benefits of hosting a Grey Cup all holds true, but the picture of exactly who's being so magnanimous flips. It's not Braley who's helping the CFL, but rather the rest of the league that's helping him (and conveniently doing so before the time when he's said he plans to sell the Lions, by 2016 when he turns 75). That's fine; it's those teams' decisions not to bid and to let the event go to Braley again.

No one is forced to step up and make money, and if the CFL's other teams want to hold back out of a sense of etiquette and waiting even longer for one's turn, fair enough. (It's also quite possible that no one else figured they could get as much local government support for a Grey Cup in 2014 as the $2.7 million the Lions have landed from a provincial government likely grasping at straws ahead of what looks like an impending electoral defeat.) It is reassuring that Braley doesn't seem to be "rescuing" the league, though. The CFL's in a great position on the whole, and the league and the Grey Cup don't need any rescuing.