OVFL-OMFL Merge Together for Publicity Stunt

James Ryan

“Recently, the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL) and the Ontario Minor Football League (OMFL) announced a partnership between the two leagues that will see the OVFL become the largest football league in Ontario.”

Read the full article on Canada Football Chat here.

I know a lot of people, especially in Niagara, are trying really hard to sell this as good news, but…

I’d like to remind everyone in Niagara that the Storm were recently a part of the OMFL for the past 4-5 years and the reason they chose to go over to the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) is because the OFC/CJFL is without a doubt, the most historic and premier league in the Province (established in 1883), and the OMFL is without a doubt a dead, shrinking horse. And if you don’t believe me, the proof is in the article itself:

“They have partnered and want to take the lead in Ontario towards football unity in the province,” said OVFL President Marie Jackson.

“Want to take the lead.”

If that’s not an admission to being second best all these years when the OVFL has been boasting and bragging about being number one, then I don’t know what is. And this from the mouth of their President. Clearly, it was a sell (lie) all along. But then again, Niagara never had a team in the OFC before this year, so in fairness to the Spears, they were the better choice by default.

Here’s how I see it all playing out this summer…

The Storm are now a part of the OFC, which is still the premier league in the Province. Joining forces with a lesser product (the OMFL), just to simply add numbers, does not make a league the “best.” I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week. The relationship has changed on paper between the two leagues, but nothing in terms of the coaching staff or the quality of competition at that level is changing.

I know a lot of Niagara players are waiting to “see what happens” with the Spears. I know this because they tell me. They all want to know if they can go to the Storm if they don’t make the Spears or if they don’t like the recent coaching changes. I tell them yes, but in reality, here’s why that will never be an option for them (not this year anyway):

“[The OVFL] has about [100] teams with over [65] players.”

65 players?? Per team?? Wow, that’s a lot of bench-sitting. The Storm on the other hand, cap each of their teams at 45 players (not a league policy) to ensure equal and fair playing time. The only downside to that however, for anyone keeping the Storm as a “fall-back” option, is that the rosters are already close to the maximum limit. The opportunity to play for the Storm this year is definitely shrinking fast.

With a goal of 65 players per team (that’s a lot for a “non-profit” organization btw), there’s just no way the Spears are going to let any potential players get away from their program. Kids who try-out for the Spears will certainly have the opportunity (hopefully) to make the OVFL team. Everyone else will get stuck in the OMFL, and the OVFL can try to sugarcoat it as much as they like – it’s a terrible option for the kids who have the third and better choice (not all city centres do) to play in the OFC instead.

The OMFL does not attract CIS or NCAA scouts. They are not required to keep player statistics. There is no media exposure being promoted by the league. And the league itself provides very little in the way of quality competition. In fact, prior to this merger announcement, the OMFL Varsity program had only three teams.

Three teams!! [Possibly four]

If the only way to get better, is by playing against the best in the Province, then players will never get better by playing in the OMFL. It is NOT a developmental league, even though it is currently being sold that way. Then again, at least it’s better than warming the bench, which is exactly what a lot of other kids who will actually make the OVFL teams will end up doing. It’s a lose-lose situation. The OVFL plans to stockpile talent for the sole purposes of keeping kids away from the OFC. How is that putting the needs of our kids before the needs of anyone or anything else?

It’s not.

It reminds me of when my son quit the Spears to join the Storm a few years back. He tried out for the Spears and did everything that was asked of him – he didn’t drop a pass, he didn’t miss a tackle, and he posted the second fastest running time out of near 80 kids (0.01 seconds slower). And yet, because of his age (young) and size (small) – two things they already knew about him before the try-out process, he was told that even though he had made the team, he wouldn’t likely get much playing time, and as such, he might want to consider playing house league (NRMFA) instead. My initial thought to that was: “No one ever got better by sitting on the bench,” and so the Spears didn’t make much sense from a player-standpoint. But also, because of our many negative experiences with house league (NRMFA), that didn’t seem like much of an option either.

But there was a third option.

When Jacob then chose to play with his school friends on the Niagara Storm, the Spears quickly changed their tune and they promised him a starting position on the team (sound familiar?), but it was too late. Jacob had already made up his mind to play for the Storm.

The Spears went on to win the OVFL Championship that year under Coach Kent Risko (who is now a Storm coach for the atom level) and my son went on to play in the OMFL with the Storm, winning the team’s award for Defensive Player of the Year. Not quite a League Championship, but you’d honestly be amazed at how little he actually cared. And NO, the Spears never did refund the try-out fee that I paid, and NO the Storm never charged me one because they knew I had already paid one with the Spears. The Spears made money. The Storm lost money. Both organizations are supposed to be non-profit. Figure that one out, folks!

But wait! Spears players can always decline to play in the OMFL and play for the Storm in the OFC, right??

Sure they can! Assuming that there’s still room on the Storm (possible), and that their parents won’t mind losing the $200 NON-REFUNDABLE TRY-OUT FEE with the Spears (unlikely). Take it from me, it really sucks losing that money!

This whole thing reminds me of the old saying: “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

I predict a LOT of disappointed kids this summer. Unfortunately.

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These are my opinions. If you don’t like them…I have others. Check them out at @coachjamesryan

James Ryan
James Ryan

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SOttawa Senators' Dziurzynski lies on the ice as referee Cameron tends to him after he was hit in a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs' McLaren during their NHL hockey game in Toronto

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