Why do NFL teams rank so highly in value when soccer teams have many more fans and viewers?

Well, no, why would it? If the NFL were to establish a franchise in Canada, they would play by NFL rules, just as when the CFL had franchises in the USA, they played by Canadian rules.

The rules have nothing to do with it. The CFL doesn’t make as much money because it’s not the highest level of professional football; the NFL is. The NFL enjoys a lot of support in Canada because of its prominence and quality.

There’s been talk of establishing a Canadian NFL team for decades now, but it runs into two major problems.

One, Canadian CFL fans are quite often fans of the Canadian game itself. The different rules are part of why they like it. So getting this established based to support a new NFL team will be a challenge.

Two, Canadians who like the NFL, or who even prefer it over the CFL, largely already have teams they support. I can tell you that my friends around here who are major Bills fans aren’t going to go out of their way to cheer a new Toronto team.

Some Americans might be familiar with CFL player Doug Flutie as well.

And then there’s the flip side to this, any CFL player who stands out has a shot at being picked up by an NFL team, and the CFL just can’t compete. A lot of the top young players in the CFL have clauses in their contract that allow them to try out with or sign with an NFL team without penalties, because everyone knows, if you’ve got a shot at the NFL, you take it. Letting the players take that shot, but leaving it open for them to return if they don’t make it, works for everyone.

A good example of this is Nathan Rourke, who was a standout as a quarterback this past year, who now has a shot at joining the Jaguars.

Definitely agreed, though in Flutie’s case, he went to the CFL when, after playing with the Bears and Patriots for four seasons, he was cut by the Patriots, and no other NFL team wanted to sign him, so he signed with a CFL team. He was one of the CFL’s top players for eight seasons, and then came back to the NFL when he signed with the Bills.

Warren Moon would be another such example; after a good college career at Washington, there wasn’t much interest in him from the NFL (it appeared that, at best, he’d be picked in the late rounds of the draft), so he signed with Edmonton, and starred there for six years, before the Houston Oilers signed him.

Or Warren Moon. He played 6 years in the CFL before going on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

Yes, there’s another factor to consider when looking at the teams’ finances. How much do people pay to go to a game?

NFL game ticket prices

As with most expenses, NFL ticket costs increase each year. In 2012, the average ticket price for an NFL game was just $190. In 2021, however, the average ticket is a much higher $457.

That 2021 price for a single game is comparable to my whole season ticket for my local team. With a much larger population, you have enough people with enough money in their pockets to pay that. There’s no way any CFL team would fill a stadium at those prices.

So game day revenue is an order of magnitude larger, per seat, with stadia that are 3 to 5 times larger in capacity. Add in the concessions sales, and the NFL teams just blow the CFL away.

American football is like American healthcare - for some reason, it just costs a lot more.

That’s been said of most expansion franchises.

If anything, more Canadians in Toronto and surrounding areas are fans of the American game; the rules don’t amount to a lot. The primary barrier is simply that you need a billionaire who can get a stadium worth many billions of dollars built. Toronto has no NFL suitable stadium, and no major ownership group I am aware of has made a serious play for a franchise. The NFL and CFL have always had a friendly relationship anyway and the CFL serves the purpose of being a minor league for the NFL, which makes it a useful thing for them to have as a source for players who were badly overlooked in the NFL draft. NFL expansion to Canada would likely destroy the CFL; a team in Toronto would kill off two CFL teams, and leave the remainder of the league rather short.

This is of course all weird to a European football fan, where the structure of leagues is just so wildly different to North American pro sports.

In truth, that alone makes comparing franchise values fraught with difficulty. The Cowboys are worth a lot because they have an equal share of the NFL’s huge TV revenue - for that matter, any North American team has 1/X value in what the league is basically worth as a whole. Even a struggling franchise, like the Oakland A’s or Phoenix Coyotes, is worth a lot because they are a permanent fraction of that league, and in theory, even if things fail where they are, they could realize that value by becoming the Las Vegas A’s or Mississauga Asswipes or whatever. They can’t be relegated because that’s not a thing in their leagues. If you tried to buy the Dallas Cowboys, you would be buying a guaranteed piece of the NFL action. If you try to buy Leicester City in the EPL, a bad season or two and you no longer have 1/.20th of the EPL action because you’re relegated to Championship.

This is decidedly not true. The biggest movers were the Spanish owner of Real Madrid (Perez) and Italian owner of Juventus (Agnelli). American PL owners were a part of the group that said they’d go along with them (along with, at the time, Russian owned Chelsea, and Abu Dhabi owned Manchester City, and English owned Tottenham) but definitely weren’t even close to the biggest movers.

European soccer fans seem to like to blame everything on American owners, as if European owners are paragons of fan friendly soccer.

True. I should have said the American owners were the biggest supporters among EPL owners. Obviously the state-owned clubs don’t really care that much about profits (if at all). And the Spanish and Italian clubs seem to not be willing or able to spend at the same level of the English clubs so a closed shop with more revenue for them was always the plan.

Thanks for the correction.


One other note on the CFL: this past season, the CFL salary cap was $5,350,000 (cite), to cover a 46-player roster.

By contrast, the NFL’s salary cap (to cover a 53-player roster) this past season was $208.2 million (cite). The minimum player salary is $750,000 (cite), though the minimum salary increases with a player’s years of service.

If you paid each player $117,000, you’d be over the cap. And the minimum salary in the NFL is around 6.5x that.

And we’re not even factoring in the difference between Canadian and American dollars. It looks like the Canadian dollar right now is worth .74 American dollars, so the discrepancy is much worse than that.

Yup. Even the Olympics.

Same athletes, same games, same everything, but more expensive.

The NFL last month announced it is moving its Sunday Ticket package from DirecTV to YouTube starting the 2023-24 season. About $2 billion per year for 7 years, but the deal doesn’t include commercial rights for bars, restaurants or other public viewing places.

As related side note, this illustrates a truth that many sports fans get totally reversed:

High ticket prices cause high athlete salaries. High athlete salaries do not cause high ticket prices.

The idea that paying Tim the ballplayer $20 million a year will cause a hike in ticket prices is stupid. It’s demand for tickets (and the available supply, which is more or less fixed unless you expand the league) that drives prices upwards, and that causes teams to place more relative value in the players that can deliver championships and sell more tickets and TV ad dollars. If an NFL team in 1947 had tried paying some guy millions of dollars and then jacked up ticket prices to pay for it, the tickets would have gone unsold and the money would simply have been lost.

If you look at those differences in CFL and NFL salary caps, it’s fairly proportional to the two leagues’ gross revenue. That’s not a coincidence. Demand for the product drives those salaries.

The NFL is, historically, the best run sports league on the planet, at least business-wise. Pete Rozelle was the greatest sports commissioner who ever lived. Back in the 60s, the NFL overtook baseball as the USA’s top spectator sport largely because they saw the power of television, and the other sports leagues didn’t. The NFL used television to market the product in a way baseball and basketball were just too slow to adapt to. They were the league that realized you could reach more fans through the airwaves than through the box office, and that used that knowledge creatively.

So, the basic answer to the OP’s question has been answered, right? NFL—and other American sports—are valued higher, because they bring in more revenue. Ultimately, because their fans spend a lot more money on them, either directly or indirectly (e.g., advertising).

Not a problem.

Still a problem, though. As I mentioned, yes, there are a lot of NFL fans out there in Canada, but almost all already have a team they cheer for. It isn’t a question of getting them to cheer for the NFL, it’s getting them to cheer for the Toronto Jerkfaces, or whatever the team is called. And this is exacerbated by the general trend of everyone outside of Toronto hating Toronto. I can’t imagine Hamilton fans cheering on a Toronto team. People who live ever farther west? No way is Calgary cheering for Toronto.