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Ratio Busting: The Naturalized Non-Imports

Written By Guest Blogger: Josh Smith

One of the most contentious issues among CFL fans is the Import Ratio. Some fans believe that the ratio should be eliminated altogether, while others believe that the number of Canadians on CFL rosters should be increased. There are others still who believe it is fine the way it is. I believe there is a simple change that could make all parties in this debate happy.

The league should institute a rule that allows long-serving Imports to be counted as Non-Imports. These players would be classified under the new designation of Naturalized Non-Imports. Ratio supporters would see an increased number of Non-Imports on CFL rosters, while ratio critics would see Imports made Non-Imports, which could conceivably allow for more Imports to play in the CFL.

There would be two ways for players to achieve naturalization:

  1. Becoming a Canadian citizen during their playing days
  2. Playing five consecutive years with one club or seven consecutive years with multiple clubs without interruption

The first method is easy to understand, but also difficult to abuse. Becoming a Canadian is too arduous a task and not worth the hassle simply to help a football team’s ratio. This would, however, show that a player is committed to Canada and the Canadian game, and such behaviour should be rewarded.

The second mechanism would reward players like Danny McManus, Mike “Pinball” Clemons, Damon Allen, Matt Dunigan and Darren Flutie, who never attempted to make the jump to the NFL. They all decided to stay in Canada and make the Canadian Football League their home. For that, they should be granted the status of Naturalized Non-Import.

To make this rule work, some other changes need to be made.

For starters, the ratio itself must change. Right now, the league mandates that the game-day roster be comprised of 20 Non-Imports, 19 Imports and three quarterbacks. Eliminate the quarterback exemption and alter the ratio so the game-day roster would be comprised of 25 Non-Imports (both regular and naturalized) and 17 Imports, regardless of position.

Next, alter the ratio in regards to starting players. Currently, the ratio rule states that seven starters must be Non-Imports. Increase that number to 12 and allow for a maximum of four Naturalized Non-Imports. Half of the starting roster would be made up of people who are committed to the Canadian brand of football.

This idea is clearly in its infancy, and I am sure a host of other issues could arise that I have not addressed, such as the potential legalities of such a move and the ramifications of teams not having enough Naturalized Non-Imports to fill their quota. That said, as a template for change, I believe that this idea would work. Players like Kevin Glenn of Hamilton, Geroy Simon of British Columbia, Jeremaine Copeland of Toronto, and Anthony Calvillo of Montreal, to name a few, would be classified as Naturalized Non-Imports under the rule change. Their respective teams could take those players off the Import side of the equation, which would free up space for other players.

The Canadian game would benefit immensely from this simple change, which reward players for having a hand in growing the popularity of the Canadian brand of football.


  1. Stan Sobolewski

    August 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I think your idea has a lot of merit. It probably would have to be phased in over 2-3 years but i really like the idea.

  2. cfl steve

    April 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    The naturalized import is a fantastic idea and should be something that the league looks at seriously all the qualifications seem good. The only qualification that would need to be added would be residency. These naturalized imports should have to have a maintain a residency policy in which the player would need to own a home or condo for a consecutive amount of years and keep it during his playing days. Many people sports or otherwise due own more then one house so this would be allowed. If a player owns a home in canada and pays cnadian taxes that go along with owning that residency then he will have shown his commitment to Canada by owning a home their even if not a citizen.
    I like the QB rule as not being part of the import non import ratio it maintains that the best QBs available will be playing on game day in the league. However it should be reduced to two instead of three as the third QB would be part of the import Non-import ratio. This may encourage teams to keep a third QB as one who would be a future starter and be of the Non import ratio. Having two quality QBs available is sufficient if a team chooses to go that route. If injury should occur placing one of the two QB excempt from the ratio there are plenty of quality imports that will be sitting home to make that call.
    A naturalizd import should not take on any special ratio and just be counted as a regular import as there will not be that many that will get to 5 years with one team, 7 altogether with more than one team and own a residence for four or five years and maintain that residence throughout the rest of his playing career. Those who do should be rewarded along with their franchises as they have truly commited to being part of the Canadian community in which they live along with the CFL.

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