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Chris Rudge wants $12-million from the federal government for a big CFL party. (Adrian Wyld)
Chris Rudge wants $12-million from the federal government for a big CFL party. (Adrian Wyld)

Monday's Globe Exclusive

CFL wants $12-million from feds for 100th Grey Cup Add to ...

The CFL would like the federal government to become a partner in the 100th Grey Cup - by contributing $12-million to what the league calls a national celebration of Canadian football in 2012.

"$12-million is a modest amount in terms of money made available for cultural events," said Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the 2012 Grey Cup festival. "If we can get $12-million, we've got some pretty exciting events for all Canadians to participate in.

"It would allow us to expand the number of events held within the city, concerts and involve the entire cultural community, things that happen in Caribana or Gay Pride. And we want to see this done across the country as well, and see more people come to Toronto and rally the way we saw people rally around the [Olympic]Games in Vancouver."

Rudge, former CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, will appear before the House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, along with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, former Toronto Argonauts great Michael Clemons and former Montreal Alouettes great Pierre Vercheval.

Toronto will play host to the 100th Grey Cup game in November of 2012. The Argonauts are owned by Senator David Braley, a long-time CFL owner who was appointed to his parliamentary post last spring.

Federal subsidies for professional sporting events have not always been an easy sell. And while the CFL has rarely been flush with cash, its championship celebration in recent years has netted a profit in the range of $3-million to $5-million for the host.

The federal government has been more willing to support so-called amateur sporting events such as the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and the 2015 Pan American Games in the Greater Toronto Area, to which Ottawa has committed more than $400-million.

But Rudge believes the 100th Grey Cup celebration has value beyond the CFL's bottom line.

"It's the single biggest cultural event in Canada and something we'd like to share with the country, not just the local community," Rudge said. "The Olympic experience taught a lot of us what major sporting events can do to transform our country and our communities and we're taking those lessons to the 100th Grey Cup."

The CFL delivered a brief to the finance committee in August, stating its desire to involve the federal government in its Grey Cup celebration. When Rudge, Cohon, Clemons and Vercheval go to Parliament Hill on Wednesday, they will bring along the Grey Cup to help stir up emotion in a city where the league hasn't had a presence since the Ottawa Renegades folded before the 2006 season.

"I don't think there's precedent," Rudge said, "but I think there's a good reason for [the government]to engage in this in an ongoing basis so we can make it a bigger Canadian celebration. This can be a catalyst to help reflect on what we value and bring us together the way we did in the streets of Vancouver."

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