Football Canada, NFL Canada reach agreement on long-term deal

Football Canada has partnered with NFL Canada to support and grow the sport in this country.

The three-year deal, announced Friday, will focus on youth participation programs (boys and girls, aged eight to 12 years) and coaching clinics in Canada, with the aim of helping grow female football.

NFL Canada will also support Football Canada’s youth flag football programs to “underserved communities” while strengthening player pathways to international competition.

“We are excited to partner with Football Canada to support the growth of football at every level across the country,,” David Thomson, the managing director of NFL Canada, said in a statement. “Making our sport more accessible, with a focus on engaging and inspiring more young people to play or be a part of the sport, is a key priority for us.

“We look forward to teaming up with Football Canada to further develop the opportunities and pathways to play football for all.”

Football Canada president Jim Mullin said the agreement will help strengthen the sport north of the border.

“Our goal is to deliver programming to get more young people in Canada to play football and stay in the sport in all forms, an objective shared by the NFL,” he said. “Simply put, the NFL is here to support what we do to grow football across the country.”

Last week, a record five Canadians were taken in the NFL draft. Ottawa’s Luiji Vilain, entering his second season as an outside linebacker with the Minnesota Vikings, is very keen to see programs that are aimed at the grassroots of football north of the border.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” Vilain said. “Anything that’s going to continue grow and shine light on the talent we have in Canada, I’m all for it.

“Whatever I can do to help . . . I’m excited about it.”

The six-foot-four, 252-pound Vilain will stage a one-day football camp June 24 in association with NFL Canada and Uplift Ottawa. The camp is open to youth between the ages of seven and  18 and admission will be free, which was important to Vilain.

“I’m looking forward to giving back and, like I said, shining light on the talent we have in Canada,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue to grow this thing.

“I definitely want t make it fun, I want to make it competitive and also informative. It’s important to me to come back and show them that I’m in the NFL but it’s possible for them and they can do it.”

Financial details of the agreement weren’t divulged. But Mullin added the agreement gives Football Canada a stronger foundation as the country’s national organizing body.

“The financial package is the largest ever by a third party to Football Canada.” he said. “We believe this partnership has the ability to transform our organization’s presence in the national landscape and support our members at the grassroots.”

Mullin said the deal with NFL Canada is in conjunction with initiatives Football Canada has with both the CFL and CFL Players’ Association.

“Football Canada is engaged with the CFL on an officiating task force and there’s a significant financial component attached to developing officiating in Canada, which is needed,” he said. “NFL Canada is going to help us develop coaching and girls football, the CFL work with us on developing officiating and CFLPA will work with us on safety.”