Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ottawa REDBLACKS Signs Former Ticat Receiver Chris Williams?

Judging by the Twitter feed of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, they've signed former Ticat receiver Chris Williams. Williams you recall went to the NFL after an acrimonious contract dispute with the Ticats, where Williams claimed he wasn't offered a minimum duration contract. Williams was able to go to the NFL after a legal decision, however the Ticats retained his CFL rights for 2013 and 2014. Williams was on the roster of the Saints and Bears.

This is an interesting signing by Ottawa. Williams had 1,298 yards receiving and 16 TDs in 2012 for the Cats. They've already significantly boosted their receiving corps, including the signing of former Ticat receiver, Greg Ellingson and Calgary's Brad Sinopoli. Plus Williams has played with former Ticat quarterback and current Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris, so there's some chemistry there. Plus Williams is an excellent kick and punt returner (1,117 yards in 2012).

I'm impressed. Even if all of Ottawa's receiver signings don't pan out, some of them will at least. I'm thinking of moving Ottawa up in my power rankings.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Go Over the 2014 Salary Cap Slightly

On the cfl.ca website it was announced that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were the only team to exceed the $5,000,000 salary cap in 2014 by $8,939. That's a pretty small amount over the cap on a percentage basis and as the amount was less than $100,000 the only consequence was a fine of $8,939; no loss of draft picks occurred.

One thing we do know, the Cats at least spent up to the cap. I would be curious to see what the Argos spent, although with Ricky Ray's high salary maybe they did come close to the cap.

The Cats had a fair number of injuries last year although that was true in 2013 and they also went to the Grey Cup without going over.

The interesting thing about no draft picks being lost for going over by less than $100,000 is that an aggressive owner could go over by $99,999 with nothing else happening but a $99,999 fine. If that made a was enough to get the team to the Grey Cup, it could be worth it for the team in terms of increased revenue. 

With the Cats being so close to the cap this year, obviously they will be in tough to keep to it this year. Next year's Ticat number could be interesting. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Thoughts on the CFL's New Convert Rules

There's an opinion piece on SportNet's web site by Donnovan Bennett about the CFL's rule changes. To me the most interesting part of it is that it has stats on what the completion rate was for field goals from the new starting point:

"During the 2014 season, 99.4 percent of extra-point kicks were executed successfully while field-goal attempts from between 31 and 33 yards went through the uprights 81 percent of the time."

Assuming naively that would result in an average of 0.81 points for single point conversions versus the previous 0.994 points, that means that if the chance of making a two point convert from the three yard line is higher than 40.5% a team should always go for two barring end game situations.

Bennett does point out though that the field goal completion percentage for point afters will likely be higher than 81%:

"Add to that the fact that 81 percent isn’t a true metric when predicting “new extra point” success rates. Extra points will be kicked from the middle—not the wide hashmark the ball could be spotted on for a FG. Also, since there is no threat for a return, kickers don’t have to worry about drilling the ball through the end zone in case of a miss. Depending on which kicker you ask, that should improve the percentage of long extra points that are completed by another five to 10 percent."

Of course the completion percentage is probably less outside and highly weather dependent (and kicker dependent considering some of the mediocre kickers lately).  For the Cats this year with Medlock, 32 yard field goals aren't really a big deal for him.

I'm not sure what the league expects in terms of going for two. Teams going for two all the time? Humans psychologically don't really like losing what they have, even when the odds are in their favour which going for two may be. Plus going for two and not making it will likely bring opprobrium from television commentators and newspaper columnists who aren't really known for their sophisticated statistical skills.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Make Money in 2014

I meant to post about Winnipeg's annual report when it came out, but I'm a bit late. Despite a bad season and not making the playoffs, the Bombers made money:

"Today the Winnipeg Football Club released its 2014 Annual Report and announced an overall operating profit of $3.9 Million – an increase of $1 Million from 2013. These solid results were due to revenue growth of 10.7%, as almost all of the Club’s significant revenue streams had positive increases in 2014, including double digit growth in corporate partnerships, suites, and concessions. Season ticket revenue and game day tickets, which make up total game revenue, continue to be the Club’s major revenue source at 37% of total operating revenue."

I wonder how much the Bombers great start contributed to these good numbers, as a 10.7% revenue increase is way above inflation. A lot of tickets were probably bought before the fans were aware the team was bad. Interesting that the ticket revenue is at 37%. That's obviously high compared to say an NFL team, but not bad. I will have to take a more detailed look at the report to see where merchandise sales are. I'm not sure whether the Bombers sell more merchandise than the Ticats or not.

Expenses increased to due to the higher salary cap:

"The increase in operating expenses relates to the focus on Football Operations where there was an increase of $735,000, due primarily to the new five year collective bargaining agreement with an increased salary cap, along with an increased emphasis on scouting and recruiting. In December 2014, the Club made its first scheduled payment of $4.5 Million to Triple B Stadium Inc., as a first payment on Investors Group Field."

The Bombers host the 2015 Grey Cup this year, which should produce an excellent 2015 in terms of revenue. If the Bombers actually have a great season it could be a remarkable year for revenue. However I wouldn't bet on the Bombers getting to Grey Cup 2015.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Still No Announcement for Grey Cup 2016 Site, Toronto the Holdup?

It seems pretty strange that no site has been announced for the 2016 Grey Cup which is basically 18 months away. I've argued in the past that Hamilton has a pretty good shot for it, with the new stadium. Ottawa looks to be the 2017 pick with the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

With the Toronto Argonauts still not sold, there were rumours that having three Grey Cups in ten years was a requirement for a buyer and it seems likely that this has something to do with the 2016 announcement, as 2016 would likely be one of the ten. That would be a blow to Hamilton's chances, as Toronto in 2016, Ottawa in 2017 and then Hamilton in 2018 would be three in a row for Ontario which would be a bit much.

Hamilton's 1996 Grey Cup, the last held in the city, wasn't super successful. However with Bob Young's ownership and the greater popularity of the event compared to 1996, and considerably more hotel rooms downtown, a 2016 Grey Cup would likely be a great success for the team and the city especially if the team is decent.

How long can the league go without naming where the 2016 event is? For an event as big as the Grey Cup, including all its ancillary events surrounding it, one would think that it pretty much has to be awarded at least 18 months in advance.

CFL Changes Convert Rules for 2015 Season; Good Teams Should Always Go For Two

So the CFL has now approved changes to the convert rules, as per this Canadian Press article. Kicked single point converts move to the 32 yard line instead of the 12. Going for two will now be from the three yard line rather than the five.

The Canadian press article had the factoid that 99.4% of single point converts were made in 2014. Obviously that's pretty boring from an information theory standpoint. Something that would be 50/50 would be optimally exciting. Too bad that they didn't include the information for what the percentage was for field goals from that distance was last year. It isn't really clear where the ball is lined up though. I'm assuming it is at the 25 yard line which results in a 32 yard field goal attempt.

A 32 yard field goal attempt is still pretty easy, although I suppose in horrendous weather it could be a problem, plus I'm sure the stats from last year for 32 yard attempts aren't 99.4% like converts. This should force more two point attempts, especially for teams that have good balanced offenses (especially if the quarterback isn't a pylon). I'm sure statistically, from the three, a team with a good offense (like the Cats should be this year) should always go for it. Right now a single point attempt statistically is worth 0.994 points and that should decline probably to around 0.9 points for a 32 yard kick. I'm not sure the percentage for converts from the five last year, but I have to think that from the three the percentage is around 50% which would be worth more than 0.9 points. We'll see what happens, but CFL teams are pretty conservative.

I'm a little disappointed that the three point convert attempt from ten yards wasn't tried out in the exhibition season. That's a pretty radical change though.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vancouver Sun Article Comparing BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps

The Vancouver Sun has a good article comparing which team in BC is second to the Canucks in terms of popularity. As someone interested in the economics of the CFL I always find these articles interesting. Some interesting points:

"Nationally, only the $1.3-billion Toronto Maple Leafs and $1-billion Montreal Canadiens of the NHL plus the $920-million Toronto Raptors of the NBA and $870-million Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball are valued as bigger Canadian sport franchises by Forbes."

This was in reference to the Canucks, who are legitimately impressive (although they probably sell less merch than the Roughriders). I'm a little more surprised that the Raptors are worth slightly more than the Blue Jays. 

""The team’s high achievement over time is reflected in its related arena business, which sees Canucks Sports & Entertainment cashing in on the marketing of Rogers Arena as a concert and special-event hub. It is currently the second-biggest arena naming deal in Canada — and one of the top-10 in North America — at $6 million per year."

I'm especially interested in naming rights and $6 million per year isn't chump change (the Ticats naming rights are rumoured to be between $1 and $1.5 million per year).

"Now in their fifth season in Major League Soccer, the Whitecaps are pegged at about $70 million in franchise valuation. That’s almost three times the $27-million price tag accorded the Lions on the strength of their share of the new $40-million CFL television deal struck with TSN two years ago. The Whitecaps are playing before crowds averaging just a little under 21,000 at BC Place Stadium, renovated to the tune of $563 million in 2010-11, compared to about 28,000 for the Lions."

I'm wondering where the $70 million valuation for the Whitecaps comes from. I suppose part of it is they could potentially be moved to the US where maybe there's a floor for franchises. The television money from Canada can't be worth anything, while I'm not sure how much the US television contract is worth, although it is divided amongst a lot of teams. One problem is that with the Canadian dollar down, their player expenses are in US dollars while most of their revenue is in Canadian dollars. Plus while the salary cap in theory is low for the MLS, to compete a team has to splash a lot of money on franchise players (which Toronto FC did last year and still sucked). I can't imagine the Whitecaps are near profitable.

"as long as the CFL on TSN drives average national audiences north of 750,000 per game (including to between 350,000 and 400,000 across B.C. for Lions games). That kind of television platform is huge in an era in which sports sponsorship and advertising is still ratings driven, even in a largely gate-driven league such as the CFL.
 
The Lions hold a significant advantage over the Whitecaps in terms of average television audiences (about 700,000 to 140,000 in 2014). Those numbers will continue to skew in favour of the CFL as long as it has three times the number of Canadian markets (nine) as MLS (three). Every Lions game on TSN attracts viewers from the opposing market, along with hard-core CFL fans tuning in from other markets. On the other hand, only 15 per cent of the Whitecaps games on TSN are against Canadian opponents and the MLS is much more relevant in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal than it is in the CFL strongholds of Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary."

This is a salient point I've made for a while, that CFL games are always against Canadian teams, while for the vast majority of MLS games, the Canadian teams play US opponents. That obviously hurts television audiences for which large ones are especially appealing for national advertisers who have money. And to be honest, I'm a little skeptical on the 140,000 number for the Whitecaps. I've never seen a Whitecaps number not against a Canadian opponent that high.

Anyways, the article is filled with a lot of interesting numbers including social media numbers. Definitely worth reading in its entirety.