Top Canadian Football Leagues come together for National Summit

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most football leagues across Canada to postpone competition for the fall season, leaders and stakeholders in the sport will join together this month for an important initiative. 

Representatives from all levels of Canadian football will collaborate virtually throughout October for a National Football Summit intended on addressing current issues in football and growing the sport across the country.  

Football Canada announced that the summit will be a two-part discussion series with both discussions being held virtually.

The initial series of discussions will include leadership from the premier football league in Canada, the CFL as well as all four of the university football conferences under USPORTS which include the OUA, AUS, RESQ and Canada West. To incorporate conversation at the youth level, the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) has also confirmed to participate in the first of the two meetings. 

Over this past summer both USPORTS and the CFL announced that they were halting play in 2020. The CFL has shifted it’s focus on preparation for a return in 2021 while USPORTS which has cancelled sport competition until Dec. 31 of this year, has not yet announced their plans following that date. 

Like the CFL, USPORTS had initially thought of a shortened season in the winter for it’s student-athletes, however, just like the CFL, they may have to postpone that plan given the concerning rise in COVID-19 cases across Canada recently. 

This will be the first national football summit since 2006 and will play a pivotal role in having the many football leagues across Canada prepared for a return to play in the near future. 

“As we anticipate a hopeful and safe return to football in 2021. It is important that we all work together towards a renewed pathway for the sport in our country,” chief sport officer at USPORTS, Lisette Johnson-Stapley said in a press release with Football Canada. 

Football Canada president, Jim Mullin who was key in organizing the national meeting between the top leagues agreed with Johnson-Stapley, stressing the importance of making progress in such unprecedented times. 

“We have the opportunity to do something which is long overdue and that’s to bring this game together. I get the sense from the isolation of zoom calls we are all sharing, that the desire to work cooperatively is at an all-time high,” said Mullin in the press release. 

“We have a unique opportunity for the sport to emerge with a renewed energy, organization and purpose,” Mullin added. 

The participants of the initial discussion which will be carried out throughout this month have selected five key areas of focus. Within each of the specific areas, the leaders will review the current state of the game and collaboratively explore opportunities for growth and development of football in Canada. 

The five topics include programming and new engagement, competition and events, international outreach, information and visibility as well as alignment. 

In each of these areas, the stakeholders have listed brief descriptions of what will be on the agenda for the meetings. Many of the directives include broadening the football audience, further exploring and promoting youth football as well as a focus of diversity issues in the sport. 

Football Canada announced that it will hold the second part of the series later this winter and will use that series to address high school football, female tackle football and flag football, among other things. 

The game of football in Canada should benefit greatly from the announcement of this summit alone. It has been over a decade since the top football leagues in the country have joined together to further the outreach of their game, and with this initiative in such a unique fall off-season, meaningful progress can be made.

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