The Canadian Football League will be looking into opening franchises in such American cities as Oakland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Jacksonville, CFL Commissioner Doug Mitchell says.
In a recent interview, Mitchell also named Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., Portland, Ore., Sacramento, Calif., and New York as likely entries for a new league or as potential CFL franchises.Mitchell said the league will form a long-term planning committee that will study the prospect of expanding. Many of the cities are candidates for NFL expansion franchises, but NFL expansion is on hold pending some settlement of the league's collective bargaining dispute.
Oakland, St. Louis and Baltimore have all lost NFL franchises to other cities.
Expansion to the U.S. was rejected by the league's board of governors in February 1987, but at their last meeting they agreed "to retain a consultant to assist us in formulating a long term plan."
Mitchell is convinced a new league will be formed in the United States "by 1990 or shortly after that" and the CFL should consider moving first into those cities.
"I don't think it's something that should be unceremoniously rejected," said Mitchell, who is resigning after five years when his contract expires May 31, 1989.
"I think you have to look at it and decide whether there would be an advantage to it."
He favors expansion into the U.S. as a means of regenerating fan interest in the CFL and to help give firmer financial footing to CFL teams hurt by declining attendance and television revenues.
The CFL, reduced to eight teams last year after the Montreal Alouettes folded, initiated an operations cap this year to allow teams to meet expenses in the face of declining fan interest and revenues.
At the same time, teams have mounted marketing campaigns to try to win back fans lost in the last five years to baseball, hockey and televised NFL games.