It's no secret that the Lingerie Football League has big Canadian dreams. Despite the less-than-stunning success of their initial venture into Canada with the Toronto Triumph (a team which saw 22 of its 26 initial players quit over safety concerns) in 2011, the league elected not only to bring the Triumph back for 2012, but also to add teams in Abbotsford, Regina and Saskatoon and start a Canadian league. In fact, Canada will be the only place where the LFL will have a regular season this year. Still, despite that intense focus on Canada, it's still a little surprising to hear exactly how optimistic Mortaza is about how his product will sell north of the border. At the end of an excellent piece Vancouver Courier sports reporter Megan Stewart wrote about her experiences trying out for the LFL thus far, there's a notable passage about Mortaza's Canadian ambitions:
Make no mistake, the LFL uses sex to sell football. (Hopefuls are instructed to wear "cute gym gear" to try-outs and must bring a head shot to what's essentially a casting call.) But without football-fast, smart and tough tackle football-the league has no leg on which to strap its lacy garter belt.
When my No. 15 was called at the end of the first try-out in Richmond, I fist-bumped my new teammates. "You're B.C. Angels now," said Mortaza and he pitched us on the aspiration that the LFL would eclipse the CFL in Canada. That's his ambition. The Angels want to play football.
While it's worth noting that that's coming from a pep talk Mortaza was giving to a team rather than an official media statement, that's still a pretty ridiculous comment for the moment. The CFL's in one of the strongest places it's been as a league in decades with eight current teams, several new and renovated stadiums either completed or planned, an Ottawa franchise coming in in a few years and other expansion possibilities. Sure, there are concerns that remain, particularly in Southern Ontario, but this is a league that occupies a prominent place in the Canadian sporting landscape. In 2010, TSN's average of 876,000 viewers per CFL game was higher than for any of their other sports properties, and even last year's down ratings were still strong in the overall scheme of things.
By contrast, the LFL has four current teams in Canada, three of which have never played a down, and they don't seem to even have a TV contract yet. Some U.S. LFL games were broadcast on MTV2 last year (pulling in 219,000 viewers per game, pretty measly when you consider the greater size of the American market), but there's no indication if that will continue now they only have a Canadian league operating (they are playing some exhibition games in Australia this year with U.S. players). They're also playing in smaller junior and AHL hockey arenas, not CFL or even NHL-size buildings, and they're still not paying their players. That doesn't exactly smack of a league that's a real threat to the CFL's position.
Despite all that, it is worth noting that Stewart's piece does seem to suggest the LFL's making progress on some of the more problematic fronts. Thus far, there haven't been serious safety concerns raised with the new teams, and some of the new coaches (including the B.C. Angels' Kevin Snell, a record-setting player in junior football with the Okanagan Sun) seem to have solid football backgrounds; coaching inexperience was an issue many of the former Toronto players complained about. It's also notable that in some places, the LFL's the only option for real organized tackle football women have; while leagues focused on sport rather than attire like the WWCFL seem more attractive from several standpoints, they only have teams in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at the moment. We'll see how the LFL develops in Canada; although the idea of it still bugs some of us, maybe they'll avoid serious issues and draw enough fans to keep it running for now. For the league to even think about challenging the CFL at the moment is the equivalent of screaming "I'll bite your legs off," though.